7 Dec 2010 was an ordinary sunny morning. Suddenly a Caucasian man in his late 40s entered my Surgery while I was preparing to operate. I usually operate at around 9.30 am as that is the best time when no clients or phone calls interrupt me.
"Can I help you?" I asked.
"Yes," he showed me his two pale hands criss-crossed with angry red lone scratches. My cat ran away and is hiding inside some wooden boxes. He scratched me all over my hands. My wife is there trying to catch him."
He was carrying his cat in his hands and on reaching the surgery the cat jumped off the taxi and sprinted away. So, there was no cat for neutering.
I imagined a ferocious cat. I didn't want to be involved. It was a job for the professional catch-catcher, a pest-controller, not for a vet. My university professors in Glasgow did not teach us how to catch a cat and I doubt any professor has time for such tasks as there are so many subjects and animals to lecture.
"I can give you some cat food," I asked my assistant to give me a small plastic bag of cat food. Then I went off with him to catch the cat, probably cornered somewhere and ready to pounce on me or claw my hands. I brought along a cat carrier bag, looked for but could not find a cat net. I brought a dog lasso pole instead but this would be useless as the wire is stiff and the cat would jump off in a split second when I lasso his neck. It was better than nothing.
At the industrial park behind, the wife was down on her knees trying to coax the cat out. The cat was too far in at the left corner (if you view from the front) of the box. They are called wooden pallet. Pallets are used to hold heavy things. It has a 6-inch gap between two wooden planks so that the forklift truck can insert its two long iron bars on the right and left end to jack up the pallet with its load. The cat squeezed inside this gap. The pallet was the 2nd from the lowest most and on top there were more pallets.
I lowered myself like a soldier in the prone position. Two yellow eyes fixed on me from far inside. "Come this side to help me," the wife thought of shifting the wooden pallets to one side and grab the cat. The industrial worker was not helpful as he had to work and the culture in Singapore is not to help animals in distress, generally. There are more young adults more concerned with animal welfare than ten years ago, but it needs time for the immigrants to be animal activists. So, it was the owner and I that must do the rescue while the other industrial park employees and bosses go about in their jobs.
"I better be at the right side," I replied. "If I go to your side, the cat may just run out from this end." It is just like military training during my national service. The military strategy is to outflank and seal up the escape route, not to focus on one area as the cat does have a way out if I go to the owner's side which is the front left side of the pallet. If you see the images, the back and left of the pallets are blocked and so the cat can escape only from the right side since the owner is on the front end. He would rather trust the owner than the vet starting at him too.
The wife could not reach the cat with her hands as she kneeled down. What to do?
I pushed my lasso stick which was around 4 feet long inside the gap. It was too short! I tried to push the wired lasso out. It was not effective. The two yellow eyes of a black cat stared intensely at me. The sun was blazing on my back. What should I do now? If I abandon the wife, the cat may run out this side and disappeared forever. The expatriate husband had disappeared and I presumed he had to work.
This was a problem that needed a solution. I looked for a longer plank. There was one. I pushed it in. And patted the cat's backside. The cat did not move. "Call him, talk to him without stopping," I said to the wife. I gave the cat a slight whack. He moved a bit forward. The wife managed to grip one of his fore limb. But she could not pull him out as the other pallets were weighing down and blocking her access.
I went to the factory to ask a young man for help. He did help reluctantly to pull out the pallet load. The wife had more space. "Grip the scruff of the neck," I advised. "In this way, the cat can be restrained." She managed to do it but the cat would not volunteer to come out. "Try. Talk to make the cat relax. I better go away from you."
When she finally got the cat out, it was almost one hour. I had the carrier bag opened. She dropped the cat in. "No surgery today," I advised. "The cat had been stressed. Wait two days." The wife borrowed the carrier and wanted to put it on her back while she cycled home. "It's only down the road," she said. "It is not safe," I said. "Put the carrier on the back seat which has a container. Then you can focus on your cycling."
"I guess you don't do cat catching often," the wife said.
"Never did it for the past 30 years of practice," I replied. "I usually ask my assistant to do it. But the assistant is not available today." It was fortunate for me that I performed to expectations. Or the cat would not be in the bag.
The cat went home to rest till he is back to normal eating and drinking. Never carry pets in your hands when you go out as they do escape suddenly.
"Never let the cat out of the bag" I remember my Primary Six School English teacher's English idioms which I had to study for my Primary Six Leaving Examination! That was some 48 years ago but I still find that this idiom seems to apply to this situation. But this idiom has a different meaning from my advice to put the cat inside the bag (carrier) when you go to the vet. "Never let the cat out of the bag" means "never reveal a secret accidentally".
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