Kitty Cat

Even though I work at an animal sanctuary now, I rarely will include it in this blog. Why? First off: professionalism. Since I represent another org, it feels disingenuous to use it for self-promotion. Also we’re supposed to be kid-friendly and this site often times is not. Second, though, is more obvious: this blog is supposed to be about wildlife, and discussing or photographing animals in cages is something else. So you won’t be hearing about our narcoleptic monkeys and paralyzed sloths here.

However, since this next story involves an animal taken directly from the wild and was one where I was personally involved (significantly beyond my training and pay grade, I might add), I’m doing it. Also, I got my hand chomped in the process, and I’m due some kind of recompense. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

But mostly, I’m telling this because it is a perfect example of life here–or maybe just my life in general–where an otherwise normal day was utterly thrown off the rails by the simple factor of animals being animals and the poor misguided attempts of humans to implement order in Nature’s chaos.

Make of it what you will.

Zen disclaimer.

The day began normally, with a plan for me to accompany my boss to check out a car for sale. Our task was waylaid by a jaguarundi lying in the middle of the highway, something I dismissed as roadkill but my boss spontaneously decided to stop and investigate. Turns out, it was only unconscious, and while I left with the car owner on our original errand she called a vet friend and they both took it to a nearby clinic, with him holding the unconscious cat in his lap. Which is when it woke up because of course it did.

Please note: I was not there for this, and if I was, I might’ve mentioned that placing a seemingly inert wild cat on your lap in a closed vehicle is tempting fate. As it happens I only got the story secondhand. But I hear screaming was involved. Also several scratches. And a near head-on collision. What ended up happening was the cat fortified itself in the boot between grocery bags until they arrived and several vet techs wrangled it out with a dog collar.

But we still weren’t sure of its condition. So yesterday I was tasked with taking it to a different animal clinic for X-rays, seeing as both of our on-staff vets were on vacation. Someone phoned ahead to tell the head vet that we were bringing him a “gato.” They failed to specify what kind of “gato,” though. “Gato” is certainly what he got. About 52 kg of wild “gato,” in fact, pissed off and locked in a cage. The poor guy was out of his depth. So he called on me to assist.

With this.

Again, note: I am not a vet. I’m a wildlife biologist, and have some experience restraining small predators. But nothing really prepared me for helping a pet vet and his poor assistant extract and hold down a hissing, biting, clawing, squirming, and scent-spraying young Tom jaguarundi from a dog kennel. The thing moved like a fluid. I couldn’t seem to grab hold of anything that didn’t bite back. One chomp went right through my gloves like a bear trap. It’s flipped around the inside of the kennel so much that the whole thing nearly tipped off the table. Eventually we got a collar around its neck and I got my hands around its legs and held them steady while the Doc got a needle of Ketamine into its quad muscle.

Photo taken after the action was over, the drugs had kicked in, and I had taken from time to gauze my hand.

The rest was clinical. The cat dropped into a quiet, happy place within a few minutes, and allowed us to carry it out and between medical instruments for the rest of the exam. Its eyes were glazed over but still wary and judgmental in that way only cats can be while still stoned out of their minds. Results? No broken bones, no organ damage, just a slight limp. Maybe down to 8 lives.

It was tranquilized, but fully awake, so I tweaked its nose in revenge for the bite. My animal karma is very low now, but it was worth it.


Kitty’s fine now. In perfect health and back to its natural fiestiness now that the drugs have worn off. We’ll hold it for a few days to monitor until we release it. Me, I’m just glad our vets have come back. It’s their problem now. I am not a cat person, and I’ve got the bite marks to prove it.


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