My poor, beautiful kitten has been wearing a cone of shame and skulking around the flat keeping as low to the ground as possible, occasionally getting stuck as he cone catches something and she refuses to lift her head enough to fix it.

Yes, on Friday she got spayed. It was a very stressful experience for both of us. From the moment she got in the carrier she was on her best behaviour, until she realised where we were, then cried plaintively. We met a nice new (attractive) vet who was very patient with my imagined list of possible complications and reassured me that she was healthy enough to undergo the GA, and then Athena popped back into her carrier expecting to go home.

Oh kitten.

When I phoned after her op I was told all had gone well and aside from the usual grogginess, she was fine. When I went to pick her up I cautiously asked how she’d been. Apparently she’d behaved very well, they said with only a moment’s hesitation which I can only imagine means she told them in no uncertain terms how displeased she was with them. Instead of sitting in her hidey box in the recovery cage, she perched on top of it and watched the nurses, only coming down for cuddles. We were sent away with metacam and the nurse said that since she hadn’t shown much interest in the wound we’d try without a collar.

At this point a little voice said in my head “I don’t believe my orally fascinated kitten, who has destroyed carpets and is currently peeling wallpaper off a corner the wall in the kitchen, will be able to leave that fascinating incision alone”, but foolishly I said that was fine and we went home. Athena was full of cuddles when we got back, if a little bit spaced out, but within minutes she was grooming her wound and biting at the join. I rushed back to the vets for a collar. Which she hates. She even had a couple of bolts up and down the room trying to escape it (“prevent Athena from jumping or excessive exercise” said the vets).

Poor Athena had a bit of a bad come down from the ketamine and spent the rest of Friday night on my lap, purring softly to herself as she lamented her collared state. This morning she managed to remove it so after trying to reapply it (kitten knows she can take it off, kitten is not so easily fooled again) I’ve decided to leave it off and keep a very close eye on her. We’ll have friends over tonight which should keep her attention off grooming. And right now we’re playing games which is keeping her busy (and always a sign of a happy animal feeling better!).

Being an ethologist, keeping an eye out for something called ‘excessive licking’ is hard. An ethogram is something we use, and it allows us to record behaviour in unambiguous terms. We often say to students that an ethogram would allow a martian to record behaviour the same way you would. So I’ve decided to describe ‘excessive licking’ thusly: a grooming bout focussed on the incision area (or within a fifty pence diameter of the area) for longer than three seconds, or biting on the incision line. We’ve had a few, but I’m trying to let her explore it without damaging the incision.

The internet is full of conflicting advice here. Even my own veterinary surgeons, much as I like them, recommended a completely unnecessary blood work up that I felt obliged to take because what if it showed something up? Although my veterinary colleagues advised against it, as a customer you lose rationality. Perhaps we should provide more comprehensive and generalised advice post surgery. Or perhaps a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing. People who don’t know about ethograms trust their instincts. Perhaps people who have kittens less destructive than Athena don’t even worry.

If we can make it through the day without any ‘excessive’ biting we might abandon the collar entirely. We’ve given up entirely with the whole “no jumping” thing. Considering she was just hanging off her climbing tree on her incision side, I think that’s for the best. Wish us luck!


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