My friend lloyd and I have been together since he was a kitten, that is, about ten years now. He's been, mostly, a good cat and quite healthy. The summer of 2001
, as many know, the Northeast suffered a tremendous heatwave
Here at Headquarters on the third floor. the heat index inside the house reached 100 or more for four days. lloyd and his wife, Curve suffered much (as did I) since we had no air conditioning and only ceiling fans (plus one small table model, enclosed for safe use) for cooling. I did the right things, of course. The cats got plenty of fresh water in the gravity jar, and I let open the front windows to allow the cats access to a porch roof. lloyd, however, would have none of it, and scurried down and outside at the first opportunity.
Mostly, he's an indoor cat. I've tried to keep him so since we're three houses down from Local Route 10, a four-lane highway with a complex traffic pattern. He's street-savvy in general, watching for traffic, but now and then has a tendency to roam (usually if there are queens --he's neutered, but still interested -- in the area, but also if there's any place where people collect -- his last known hangout was a laundromat). At this house, he's not been known to go any further than across our (small and not-travelled) street to see a feral queen who lives with her children behind a medical building.
So I was not really alarmed by him getting out. I was, however, somewhat perturbed when he didn't come when called when the weather broke into a tremendous thunderstorm. I saw him, later in the day, when I was walking to the market on the other side of Route 10; he seemed unwilling to come back into the house. Neither did he seem too eager to do more than greet me as I walked out a second time, quite late in the evening, and was accosted by a confused young woman in front of the Medical Building who seemed in search of various white rock-like substances. As I walked marketward, I heard him shout to me a couple of times, then again...but isn't that just background noise?
At the store, a kindly man asked whether he might drop me home, if only to get out of the weather for a few more minutes. I declined. "I have a colleague outside who might be puzzled if I did." I said, before leaving the store.
My first shock of the evening: I was greeted with the sight of eight pounds of furry brown lightning crossing Route 10 to get to me. He cried, he shouted, he seemed very upset. I picked him up, and started the walk home.
To his great credit, he's learned how to "heel". He can and will follow me at a reasonable distance and at a catpace (sometimes a bit ahead, sometimes behind, with occasional minirests and sprints). At last I got to my house, and shooed him upstairs.
It was then that I saw him panting.
He doesn't pant.
This was bad in itself. Worse, it was full-bore, wide-mouthed, heraldic-art panting, with a very long and red tongue lolling out and all his teeth showing. Every so often, he'd stop, swallow, and continue in a way that suggested...he couldn't stop.
Heatstroke. I'd had it. I didn't want to think about how the cat felt right then.
For about five minutes, I went through every emotion of shock...OK, maybe he'll stop...maybe he'll stop when I don't watch...no, he's following me AND panting...For Pete's sake, stop that, please...all right, now, don't panic, how do you deal with a cat with heatstroke? Please, please don't tell me to put him in the tub or tell me I've got to get him to a vet (it's by now two in the morning, with no car and Central Veteranary on the other side of town)...OK, Ask Jeeves don't fail me now....
Well, I drew some cool water in the tub. I got the towel. He struggled a bit getting into the towel. I got him into the bathroom, and (selfbackpat) shut the door. Then, I lowered the cat into the water.
It speaks much that I was able to do this without (much) trouble. He cried a bit but not much, and instantly became flat, six feet long, with long-nailed hands with thumbs (I kid you not). He yelped as he hit the water, and became amazingly tall as well. Holding him firmly by the scruff of the neck, I noticed that this wasn't getting much water on him, as opposed to having him over it. Accordingly, I began to ladle water over him, while he looked at me, this time mewing piteously. Sure enough, under the fur, he was quite hot to the touch, and as I ladled, he quieted down considerably. Oops! he slipped out again. Flat cat, tall cat. He's giving me That Look again. (It's nearly human.) At last, he seemed cool enough. I gave him a rinse (the water was a bit sudsy from the bath salts I'd used earlier). He'd shed enough to knit another whole cat. And yes, he did leave a really bad bathtub ring.
And he washed. For about an hour. I tried feeling him, to see if he was, indeed, OK, but he just shrugged me off and kept washing. (This probably saved him, the water he dried off was going into him.) The next day, he was limp but otherwise responsive. Two days later he seems OK now, and when the weather cooled, challenged his wife to a wrestling contest. Whew.