A cat’s toxic little gift
She must have been born in one of the earliest spring litters of kittens. The sweet little ginger tabby cat with white paws and a bib was a skinny little thing when we first met her at about eight weeks old.
“We found it gnawing on a dead lamb up in the woolshed paddock,” Patsy Grundy told us. “The dogs nearly put paid to it, but I called them off and cornered it under the shed. Hissing and spitting, feisty little thing. Grabbed it by the scruff and it just froze. Gave up fighting and then she snuggled, heart thumping, into my shirt.”
The kitten certainly didn’t show any signs of bad temper now, purring and relaxed in the Vet’s hands.
“I locked her in the bathroom for a few days, and fed her little and often and talked to her lots. She tamed up really quickly. Now Hepa is totally soft on her. Calls her his Goldilocks.”
The kitten was in for a check-up. Apart from still being a bit thin, she was now clean and flea-free.
“I can vaccinate her against snuffles, although if she came from the feral population she probably already has immunity,” the Vet said.
“I’m not sure where she came from,” said Patsy. “I didn’t think we had many wild cats around. The bird life is quite good out our way, and we always have to put out baits for rats and mice over winter. I think it is more likely she was dumped, poor little thing.”
The Vet gave the kitten a jab and a clean bill of health and thought no more about it.
At the end of spring the farming community collectively heaves a sigh of relief. They have made it through the wet, the mud, the night time calvings, the pouring rain and freezing cold milkings at four in the morning.
The Vet relaxes a bit too. Most of the dramas have been had and it becomes the season of steady work, with time for a bit of a yarn over a cup of tea.
The trip into the hills beyond the harbour was more like a day out. The Bellinghams wanted some of their dairy herd palpated to see which cows were coming in season for the bull and which were not and why not.
Grundy’s place was on the way. Patsy and Hepa ran a reasonable flock of Suffolks and their lambs were due for drenching. The Vet had it on board to drop off for them.
Hepa Grundy came to the door looking sleepy, disheveled and distinctly unwell.
“Jeepers Hepa, you look lousy,” says the Vet. “I just want to drop this off and I’ll be on my way.”
“Nah, come in for a yarn and a cuppa. I don’t think I’m contagious. Not snorting.” “You don’t look too hot.” “Yeah, a bit achey and I had a temperature a couple of days ago, but it’s come down now. I’ll be right by tomorrow.”
Yeah right, the Vet thought, but he agreed to a stopover. They yarned about the weather, the lamb schedule prices, the neighbour’s new bull, the bloody council and the bloody idiots in Wellington. The standard topics of conversation.
Then Hepa got onto the spring and how it had gone for them.
“Just so-so, really. We had a few abortions among the ewes. I just assumed it was a bit of vibrio and they would develop their immunity to it. Didn’t want to worry you about it.”
More likely he didn’t want the expense of taking samples and the cost of a Vet’s visit.
“Was it young sheep or older ones affected. Did you notice?” asked the Vet.
“Well, I set stock them all together, so it was across the board really. Not so many but enough to notice.”
“If it was campylobacter or what we all used to call vibrio, then it would be more likely in the young sheep, if the older ones had already had exposure to it,” said the Vet. “Might be something else…”
He pondered for a while.
“I think it is more likely she was dumped, poor little thing”