Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Trip to the vet in Mwanza

On Saturday, with Ginger and Ambrose in their respective travel cages, William, the driver carried them out to the waiting vehicle and loaded them onto the back seat. Ginger, who is the gentleman of all male cats, immediately set up protest by yowling loudly! Our first port of call, was to friend, Nsia's camp to collect her. She caught a lift with us to the airport as she was flying to meet husband, Rob in Arusha later that day. While we waited in the car outside Nsia's house for her to finish packing, Rob's four large and rather fierce-looking dogs, separated from us by a fence, called out their greetings by barking furiously! Ginger immediately stopped his racket and lay down in his cage to sleep!
My sweet friend, Nsia who is one of the four ladies on camp! (I took this photo of her at the club on Wednesday while she sent a phone CHAT to Rob whom she was missing very much!)

Soon Nsia appeared with her suitcase which William loaded into the rear of our vehicle. She made herself  comfortable on the seat next to the cats and we were off!  I had an appointment to see the vet at 9am. He had told me on the phone the day before that he would administer a light sedative, we'd wait about five minutes for it take effect and then he'd insert the chips.  After this, Nsia and I intended to stop off for breakfast at the Tilapia Hotel on the shores of Lake Victoria. William would wait in the car with the air conditioning on high and the convalescing kitties sleeping off their tranquilizer.
 Rainy season in Tanzania and all is green and lush
Ginger, after his initial protest, lay down and slept all the way to Mwanza
Bright-eyed Ambrose not at all sure where his mom is taking him!  

According to the vet's instructions, his surgery was situated opposite the Mwanza Women's Clinic. Fortunately Nsia knew exactly where it was and directed William to the spot.

Above a large opening in a wall which faced onto the pavement was the legend: Dr Igungu, Veterinary ServicesBetween us, Nsia and William and I carried the cats in their cages onto the small veranda as Dr Igungu opened the door to his office. He asked me to step inside with the two cages. Nsia and William sat on a narrow bench just outside. 
 Dr Igungu's surgery and office. The wall partition on the right was made of plywood, didn't reach the roof and opened onto the busy street!

It was very clean, very narrow and very crowded with medical supplies, books and papers. Once I'd placed the cats' cages on the floor in front of me, I just managed to sit down on the only other chair in the office. Dr Igungu, however is very professional, well-spoken and knew exactly what a micro-chip is as he's inserted many into expat cats and dogs.  He says that he doesn't normally do procedures at this office as he makes house calls for these and other operations. 
 With the travel cages on the floor between me and the doctor's table, there wasn't place to swing a cat! (Pun intended, LOL!)

First out of the cage was dear old Ginger who sat quietly on my lap while Dr Igungu prepared the tranquilizer.  Dr Igungu called out to someone, the door opened and his assistant, a tall thin man, entered! He wrapped a towel around Ginger, took hold of him by the scruff of the neck (which, BTW, is not painful, and renders the cat harmless) while the vet injected him. Dr Igungu and I chatted, the assistant stood quietly by and Ginger slowly began to feel drowsy. 

As soon as the doctor thought the cat was calm enough, he inserted the huge microchip needle in between Ginger's shoulder blades and with a "pop" I heard the chip sail in under his skin

I put Ginger back into his cage, placed him outside at Nsia's feet and came back into the office for the next cat: Ambrose!  When I tried to pull him out of the cage, he hung on to both sides of the door with all fours

Once I had him on my lap, the assistant wrapped a towel around Ambrose, took hold of him by the scruff of the neck and the vet administered the drug. Ambrose started to show the effects of the tranquilizer quicker than Ginger (he's smaller and a lot thinner!) and as his head drooped, the vet stepped forward with the huge microchip needle. Once again, I heard the chip, which is the size of a grain of rice, enter my kittie's body! 

Again, I put, the now very drowsy, Ambrose in his cage and placed it next to Ginger's at Nsia's feet. The vet entered the identity numbers in the cats' medical books and wrote out my invoice. I was pleasantly surprised when he charged me Tsh55,000/US$35 and told him so. When I told him I was from Mwadui, he said he knew the town and had spayed cats and dogs here before. Grant and I decided, when I got home, when we needed the cats to have their annual shots, we'd ask him to make a house call and pay his travel to Mwadui. Much less stressful on cats and owners! 

Once I'd greeted the vet and thanked his assistant for his kind help, between me, William and Nsia we again got the cats' cages across the busy street, set them on the back seat and got in ourselves. I set the air conditioning on high and asked William to drive to U-turn, the grocery store.  I needed a few items which chef Paul had asked for and to buy Marnitz deoderant and toothpaste

By the time we stopped outside the supermarket, which is only two blocks from the vet's offices, I felt terribly hot. I asked Wiliam to check the air-conditioning as hot air seemed to be coming from the vents.  He pressed a few buttons, turned the air con dial and declared the air conditioning out of order! I asked him to keep the car running while Nsia and I dashed into the store. I was so worried about the cats in the heat, that I only bought Marnitz' toiletries, leaving the Guest House list for another day.

As I got into the car, which felt like an oven by now, I turned and asked Nsia if she'd mind that we skip breakfast and take her to the airport straightaway. She agreed immediately as she knows how dangerous it is for animals to be left in overheated vehicles in normal circumstances and even more so if they had had anesthetic, or in our cats' case, tranquilizers administered.*

We dropped her at the airport and with windows wound down, and the broken air conditioning turned off, we made our way back across town, out onto the B6, and headed for Mwadui.  

I kept looking back at the cats who were SO fast asleep,  it looked as if they were dead. Only by removing my sunglasses, and peering at their sides, could I see the slow, deep breaths each cat was taking.  Ginger was lying on his side with his head jammed between his paws on the bottom of the cage. Ambrose lay half on his tummy, facing the back of the cage, with his left front paw bent backwards towards me! 

Back home in SA we had a vet who treated all our animals from 1994 until 2010 when he retired from his profession due to ill health. Danie was a wonderful animal doctor and often gave me insights into why a pet behaved in a certain way. He was my personal pet psychologist without even knowing it. My children would hoot with laughter when I'd tell a puppy or kitten that if it didn't conform to family rules, I would take them to Dr Platzhund (my name for Danie) for therapy! 

Danie also always insisted that if your pet is undergoing an operation you leave it with him at 8am and collect it at 4pm that afternoon.  This was often difficult for us as we lived 34kms from the town where Danie practiced. But he was adamant and told me that no animal/pet owner should see their "babies" when they were coming around from anesthetic. By the time we'd collect a cat or dog who'd had "been under", it might still be a little wobbly but it had almost come around and was not as distressing as seeing them under the influence of the drugs. 
 Ginger out for the count after the tranquilizer at the vet 
Watching my kitties from the front seat of the car, while the wind whistled in through the open windows, I thought of Danie's wise words. But in this case, it was impossible to leave the cats in an office which had no lock-up facilities, no ceiling or traditional walls, and definitely was not cool enough for the cats to remain while they came around.  

So I continued to watch and fret about my cats who had not yet come to more than two hours after receiving the injections although the vet has said they'd  show signs of waking up after one hour. 
Here Ginger was still out, but his eyes were open!  Every time I photographed these cats in their delirium, I'd think imagine if this is the last photo of my cat? Weird, I know but you won't know the feeling until/ unless you sit and watch your pet like this 

A few minutes later when I turned around, I saw that Ginger had moved to the front of the cage, had his head on his paws and was lying with glazed eyes wide open! But he was breathing. Glancing towards Ambrose, I saw he had turned around onto his other side and was also asleep with his eyes open. Scary stuff!  
 Ambrose, still out, staring ahead with glazed eyes!

Meanwhile, William sped down the road, as fast as the limit allowed, that is, with the wind howling through the windows. Oh why didn't I appreciate the comfort of air conditioning when I had it

By 1pm as we drove through the main gates into Mwadui both cats had sat up groggily only to collapse again. Back home, William helped me to put the cages in the house and brought in my camera, handbag and Marnitz' shopping. After thanking him for being such a great support with two "sick" kitties, I sent him off to the workshop to have the air conditioning unit checked. 

Shadow, who was waiting for me on the veranda bed, sniffed at the two cages, smelt the medication and started hissing. I carried the cats to my bedroom which has air conditioning, opened the cage doors and they wobbled out onto the floor. With the bedroom door closed, the room was beautifully cool and they always have a bowl of water nearby. Shadow had to remain outside so that his animosity doesn't stress them even more
 Two very woozy cats lolling listlessly on my bedroom floor

As I sit and type this post (on Sunday night) all three cats are lying in their favourite places. Ambrose on the highest part of the "cat tree", Ginger on the second office chair beside my desk (I had to bring this chair in a few months ago, else Ginger pushes me off my seat!) and Shadow, having calmed down on Sunday, asleep on the sofa after watching a Scotland/New Zealand rugby match with Grant.

I have come to the conclusion that when the cats have surgical procedures, which thankfully are all these three have ever had, never an emergency operation, it's the anaesthetic which causes the most discomfort rather than the incision/operation itself. 

Here I also want to explain why we've had these two cats, Ginger and Ambrose micro-chipped. When we left Sudan (where we acquired Shadow) to return to South Africa (where we have our home) back in 2010,  we had him inoculated and micro-chipped in order to get him into our homeland. Taking him from SA to Kenya last year in May, although he needed a special rabies test and various inoculations, the microchip was not necessary although it is there for life. 

Bringing him, Ginger and Ambrose from Kenya to Tanzania, they had to have several injections and special papers (and Grant had to have plenty of dollars!) but micro-chips were not required.  Although we're not due to leave Tanzania any time soon, we'd said that as soon as we'd found a suitable vet in Mwanza (and I'm glad to say, Dr Igungu fits the bill perfectly) we'd get him to insert the micro-chips which we brought in from SA. So all three cats will remain with us in Tanzania until we one day leave the country and return home

* People reading this post may think that I over-reacted about having cats under anesthetic in hot conditions of the car. Not so. There are many reports all over the world, that pet owners inadvertently in ignorance or negligently, leave pets, especially dogs in hot cars which are parked up while they go shopping. An animal can become unconscious within half-an- hour in hot conditions and if left for longer than that, can actually die from overheating. Horrific. 

Many years ago when we lived in Zululand on the East Coast of South Africa, I had a cat spayed one summer. After I'd taken possession of my pet, the vet asked if I had air conditioning in my car, which I did and if I was going to take the cat straight to our home on a farm 30kms from town. I said I was and asked why he asked. He told me that he's had cases of women who collect their animal after surgery, load it into the car, drive around the corner and park at the shopping center. There they proceed to do their shopping and when they return to the car, they find their cat/dog has expired. This of course, put a holy fear into me of every leaving a pet, recovering from surgery or otherwise in a hot vehicle.  Hence my reluctance to leave our kitties in overheated car on Saturday!

I  wish you all a wonderful week ahead.


  1. Wow, what a time you have been through with the cats. But I'm so glad you found a great vet and that you and your driver were able to take the cats home asap. Every year here we have cases of pets and small children expiring in overheated cars. It really doesn't take long for small beings to become overheated. I can understand your concerns. I'm glad all 3 of your pets are now "ready to go" whenever necessary. Hugs. xx

  2. Oh my ! Poor Jo, what an adventure ! I can imagine how worried you were especially because the car was so hot. anaesthetic is the worst for a cat. Arthur has to get a shot otherwise nobody could touch him, but it takes more than an hour to wake up and then he walked like a drunken sailor after at least 3 hours and it was just a slight little anaestesia ! Now it's over and you can relax !

  3. That was pretty scary having your anesthetized kitties in the hot car. But at least you had the windows open so that it wouldn't heat up even more inside the car. You are so tender-hearted and conscientious about caring for your pets. I'm glad you found such a wonderful vet!


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