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Spotty Belly

That's what we call our youngest cat Thunder sometimes. And when he suddenly became the landlocked equivalent of a furry lamprey shortly before Thanksgiving, we started to pay closer attention. He'd always been a very affectionate cat, but standing on my shoulder as I worked, butting his head against mine and nuzzling my ear, was a little out of the ordinary. As was following me around the house non-stop, even to the bathroom, and putting that little extra trill in his "pleeeze rub my head" miaow.

In the course of one tummy rubbing session (which he both loves and despises, the battle between which is endlessly amusing...until the scratching starts, anyway), I discovered a lump on his belly. We pinned him down and dug through the fur to see that it was his nipple and it was swollen to the size of a large pea. A complete investigation revealed that several more were swollen, so Googling was in order.

That very same week was marking the end of my mother's cat's life. She was riddled with cancer, picked up from a vaccination done a year or so ago, and was nearing the time where the kindest thing to do would be to put her down. My mother's pain was a palpable thing whenever we visited, and poor Angel more and more listless. It was heartbreaking to see her and know there was absolutely nothing that could be done for her, and worse, know that what killed her was something that was supposed to protect her. So when my Googling turned up "feline breast cancer", with a mortality rate above 80%, it was Not A Good Day.

It was the day before Thanksgiving and I somehow found a vet to see the fuzzy gray bastard. The vet patted the boy down and palpitated his tummy, did other assorted poking and prodding, borne with ill grace by the cat. Then he asked the nurse for a slide and squeezed one of the nipples, catching the white fluid that dripped out. They went off to check it out and I kept busy corralling the kids and one torqued off cat.

Now, you have to understand, Thunder fancies himself a Great Hunter. He's a decent mouser when opportunity presents itself, and loves nothing more than to shred a piece of paper or battle for a piece of string. His second favorite activity is chasing and bapping the two kitty girls he is forced to cohabit with, both of which outweigh him and are more than capable of administering a severe drubbing. Usually they content themselves with hissing and moving on when he begins the bapping though, since actual moving and fighting would require physical effort on their part (something to be avoided at all costs).

So when the vet comes back and announces that the fluid coming from Thunderbutt's nipples is milk, that he's actually lactating, I think I can be forgiven for breathing a huge sigh of relief...then laughing non-stop for the next ninety-seven days.

Oh, the indignity. Oh, if only he could talk. Oh, if only I could tell the kitty girls!

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Posted 12/21/03
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