Sunday, October 17, 2010

Mojo & The Corn Cob: A Cautionary Tale

I've been owned by cats for most of my life.  I have never had one that will eat absolutely anything, until Mojo.

Back in June, we had the first of the season's local sweet corn.  Corn on the cob is my son's absolute favorite thing to eat, ever.  While we were eating our corn, Mojo was having raptures twining himself around our legs, standing up on his hind legs to bat at our arms, and generally just trying to get some of what we were eating, which I thought strange.  We don't even eat our corn with any butter on it.  It was just boiled sweet corn, still on the cob, in my SO and son's cases, with a dash of salt.  I remember giving Mojo a look and saying sternly, "Hey what the hell, cat.  I spend all this money so you can have a diet free of cheap fillers like corn and the only thing that really gets you going is corn."  Figures.  I mean, this is Mojo.  After all.

My SO offered him a corn cob to see what he'd do with it and he immediately tried to hork it down.  Really.  Right then and there he was going to gnaw a chunk off and eat it.  Most cats would have licked it or tasted it first, but no.  This is Mojo.  I took it away from him because I could see that he wasn't just interested in the kernels, but the whole damn cob.  The thing must be consumed in it's entirety, apparently.  He followed me around begging for it back.  I mean he whined about it.  This cat has the most wimpy pathetic whine ever for such a ballsy cat.  It really is just silly.  I said, "No, cat.  No eating corn cobs," and I threw them away.

Our trash can is in the pantry, and we keep the pantry door shut so that animals may not rummage in trash, because Kitsune and Mojo most certainly would.  Simon won't eat anything if it's not crunchy, of a neutral temperature, and in kibble form.  Sir Prissy.  But Trash Cat and Trash Dog would probably kill each other over some two-day old coffee grounds mixed with dirty litter from the bird cage or something equally as disgusting.

Disposing of the corn cobs immediately didn't matter, though, because This Is Mojo.  At some point he got to those corn cobs.  Two days later, I'm cleaning out the litter box and I found a gigantic poop that crumbled into chewed up corn cob bits.  Hmm.  Kitsune doesn't poop in the litter box, Prissy Cat won't eat anything that doesn't rattle out of a bag.  One culprit:  Mojo.

I watched him for a day or two to be sure that all corn cob pieces had been, shall we say, evacuated.  All systems were go, so I forgot about it.

About a month later, we had corn on the cob again.  Again, Mojo went crazy while we were eating dinner.  I told my SO, "We have to take the trash out right away because I don't feel like paying for a surgery to remove corn cobs from a cat."

But it didn't matter.

Because This Is Mojo.

Two days later, I wake up and there's vomit on the carpet.  The dog sleeps in his crate.  Of the two cats, Simon is the puker.  If he eats anything chicken or turkey based, he pukes.  If he eats too fast, he pukes.  If he's really upset, he pukes.  If you look at him wrong, he pukes.  Mojo, never.  I'd never seen him so much as gag.  So I assume Simon The Serial Puker has been at it again, grab the enzyme cleaner, and set about cleaning the mess.  As I'm doing that, my son wanders out of his bedroom and announces that the vomit came from Mojo.  I wasn't convinced.  Sometimes my son blames Kitsune for Simon's messes, even when Kitsune has been in his crate.

Later that day, I find more vomit.  I start verbally abusing Simon's anorexia while I clean it up, but Aidyn informs me again that it wasn't Simon, it was Mojo.  Come to think of it, I hadn't seen Mojo all day.  So I ask my son, "Where is Mojo?"  "In my room."  I go look.  Sure enough, there's Mojo, in my son's room, hunched over in that scapula-poking-up-over-spine posture that means Nothing Good.

So I keep an eye on him.  I get him to eat and drink, so I start to think, okay.  Maybe I'm just paranoid.  I am, actually, paranoid of GI obstructions and foreign bodies in animals since my horse died an early death due to sand impaction colic.

A little while later, Mojo projective vomits everything he has just consumed.  Now, I'm concerned.  We had to go to my SO's mother's house for a birthday celebration, but while I'm there I can't stop worrying about Mojo.  Finally, my understanding SO agrees to leave early so that I can check on the cat and decide if he needs to go to the emergency veterinary hospital.  When we get home, I drag Mojo into the bathroom and palpate him.  I'm pretty sure there's something in there that shouldn't be there, but I'm not great at trusting that I know what I'm feeling on palpation.  I'm sure enough that there's something hard in there that I want an x-ray to convince me otherwise.

I pack Mojo up, and away we go 3 minutes down the road to the emergency vet.  Yes, isn't that handy?  Dr. W. had recommended this place to me off-handedly in a conversation once months before, and it's practically right next door.  She said, "If you ever have an emergency, go to this place, it's really nice."  She wasn't kidding.  The place was pretty much empty when I got there, no other emergencies on that Sunday night.  The front door was locked but I could see into the waiting room as I waited for someone to answer the buzzer and it looked nicer than a lot of hotels I've stayed in.  High ceilings, large tasteful European prints hanging on the walls, and a big custom shaped aquarium in the middle of the room.  Off to one side was a counter top with a coffee maker, hot water, and tea bags with all the necessaries of coffee and tea.


A lady came to let me in and asked me what my emergency was.  I said, "Well.  My cat has a GI foreign body obstruction."

She said, "Did your vet call over to say you were coming?"

"Oh, no.. No vet diagnosed it, I just know that's what it is and I live right down the road so here we are."

Judging by her reaction, they aren't used to clients waltzing through the door with a diagnosis.  She sort of stuttered at me, "Ah, oh, um.  Okay.  Well," before she got her pace again and handed me the necessary forms to fill out.

While I sat in the exam room with a silent, sick cat, I fretted about the veterinarian.  Every once in awhile you get the one, usually the one right out of vet school, that strongly resists a caregiver diagnosis, even when they know it's probably right.  I'm sure most people who aren't stupid and yet have no formal education have had the experience.  It's like they're pissed and resentful that they just spent all this money on a degree and you went deprived them of the fun of figuring out what was wrong.  I've had one or two, which isn't bad considering the number of vets I've worked with.  It seems like you get one every 10 years or so.

Luckily enough, I didn't not get that person.  The attending veterinarian was a nice lady with a Russian accent that made me want to beg her to say, "Battlecruiser operational."  She listened to the story and without further ado, said, "Vell okay den, let us get some x-ray and vind out vere tis tink is."

When they took Mojo back for the x-ray, he spitted, snarled and screamed his displeasure at the procedure. I heard him all the way across the clinic, and it's a pretty big place.  I winced.  For the techs, mostly.  When one of them came back in to tell me it would just be a moment, I said, "Sorry.  He's really a nice cat, I swear."  She laughed.

The vet came back in ("Vell.  He tell us vat HE tink of x-ray!") and she popped up the x-ray on a computer screen there in the office.  It was pretty nifty.  It was literally about two minutes.  And she could zoom around and highlight things on the x-ray with the mouse.  I was impressed.  Again.  Sure enough, the x-ray revealed something was in there.  Right where it was going to need surgery to get it out.  I agree that surgery is needed.  The doctor asks me if I want to go back and say goodnight to Mojo before I leave.  I said yes.

They took me back, and there was Mojo, growling at a tech who was talking to him through the bars in his cage, while keeping a very cautious distance.  I came in just in time to hear her say, "Well you ate it."  He growled.  His chart, hanging on the front of the cage, had not one but two neon orange "EXTREME CAUTION" stickers stuck to it.  When Mooj saw me, his growling diminished into his whiny pathetic voice.  I said, "Wow, Moojer.  You get two stickers."  The tech standing there agreed, saying, "Yeah, my cat only gets one and I thought he was bad."  Again I apologized and tried to convince them that he really is a wonderful cat.

Mojo was lucky, he didn't have to have his intestine opened up to get it out, and none of the intestine had suffered any real damage.  It was just small enough for him to poop it out if it could moved past the place it was stuck, so the vet just sort of milked it along to his colon and sewed him back up again.  He came home a day after the surgery, after he had pooped out, guess what?  A piece of corn cob.

Of course.  Because this is Mojo.

He slumped and staggered around the house for the next week.  Being that I am me, I immediately looked up his pain meds in my Plumb's Veterinary Drug Handbook and discovered that its about ten times as potent as morphine.  He was only on .01 mL of the stuff and I still started hearing Comfortably Numb every time I looked at him.

Hello (hello hello) is there anybody in there?

I finally deduced that when preparing the corn, we cut off some ends that looked gnarly.  While we threw out the corn cobs we had eaten from, we had neglected to remove the ends from the sink that we had cut off.  He probably fished them out of the sink strainer and ate at least one.

Lesson learned:  Cats who had to survive by their wits for the first 18-20 weeks of life will eat absolutely ANYTHING.  Once you know they are determined to eat something inedible, you cannot leave even the smallest piece of it in a sink strainer.  What goes in must come out, sometimes via 2,700 dollar surgery.


  1. wow! good call. I've been nervous about obstructions, waiting almost 24hrs for vomiting to stop and poop to start. Luckily we've not had to rush them to surgery!

    I love that you said " It's like they're pissed and resentful that they just spent all this money on a degree and you went deprived them of the fun of figuring out what was wrong."
    That is EXACTLY what that is like. I happen to know what my dog is allergic to through trial and error, and when our (then) vet put up such a stink because my guess was right and I saved myself $300 in diagnostic blood work... I went and found myself another vet!

  2. my cat just got into some corn cobs we tossed out after dinner, and i ended up chasing him across the house while he carried the cob like a rawhide bone. it looked like he managed to gnaw some off, so it looks i'm going to have to keep an eye on him. good to know what to look out for!