On July 13th, 2021 we said goodbye to and euthanized our beloved clinic cat of 16 years, Squirrel.
Squirrel’s story with Evansville Veterinary Service began on May 19th, 2005. At the time, she was a barn cat belonging to local Evansville farmer, Don Maas. We don’t know her exact age, but she was believed to be 1-2 years old. A farm hand brought in the young adult female cat to be checked out after incurring an injury to her right hind limb. The details of her injury are unknown, but may have involved farm machinery. Regardless, Mr. Maas cared for barn cats just as deeply as he did his cows, and ensured the little cat was attended to. Dr. Joyce Brown determined that the leg could not be saved, and performed amputation surgery the same day. The little tortie (short for tortoiseshell, describing a cat with mottled orange and black hair) spent about 10 days recuperating in the clinic. Once healed, Don Maas and Dr. Brown mutually agreed that perhaps the kitty would be better suited to the indoor life, and so Squirrel had a second surgery to be spayed and then began her tenure as the resident tripod (or, if you prefer, triPAWd) clinic cat of Evansville Veterinary Service.
It’s estimated that up to 60% of veterinary clinics have at least one “Clinic Cat.” These fine felines play many important roles in their establishments. Some are blood donors for patients in need. Others help socialize orphaned kittens. Some are professional mousers (spoiler: we do admit to getting the occasional mouse at EVS, and Squirrel was most decidedly NOT a good mouser, despite her barn cat roots.) Many are hospitality agents, greeting clients at the reception desk. Almost all provide much needed comedic relief, a listening ear, a strong purr motor, and furry cuddles to cheer up anyone on a hard day. Squirrel was a real professional in this area; for 16 years she was cherished by the staff of EVS. A few favorite memories from over the years:
- Being a mixed animal practice, some of our veterinarians travel to area farms each day. After Squirrel first arrived, she could sometimes be found curled up on a pair of coveralls or rubbing on boots – presumably because she remembered or missed the familiar farm smell.
- Paper clips were some of Squirrel’s favorite playthings. Don’t get us wrong; she loved a laser pointer or a good bit of catnip as any cat should, but paper clips were her favorite. From time to time, she also enjoyed “accidentally on purpose” helping a stack of medical record charts fall to the floor.
- Squirrel did NOT share her title of Clinic Cat with anyone else. Briefly, in 2010 or 2011, a very naughty little orange kitten named Roger (or, the Kraken, depending on who you asked) vied for a role as her roommate, but Squirrel decidedly disapproved.
- In her younger years, Squirrel could still jump fairly well despite her lack of one hindlimb. Part of closing duties was to push the chairs away from the reception desk so that she couldn’t use them as launching pads to get on the desk and vandalize the plants.
- Squirrel was a “happy drooler.” When petted just right (her favorite spot was to be scratched under the chin) she would shamelessly drool on whoever was providing the affection. This got worse as she aged and had teeth extracted. You knew you were scratching the right spot if Squirrel was purring, drooling, and wiggling the “nub” of her amputated limb.
- Once, Squirrel lost an argument with a door and sustained a minor injury to her tail. In order to treat the wound, we shaved the hair from her tail, all but a dignified pouf at the end. The result was a tail that looked almost like a new, albeit unusual hind leg. The result was so hilarious that we kept up the haircut for several weeks just for laughs (see included photo.)
- Every good cat must vomit from time to time, to keep her housekeeping staff fresh on their cleaning skills. Before he retired, Squirrel’s most favorite place to puke up a hairball was underneath Dr. Dave Watson’s desk. Dr. Watson still does not appreciate how special this made him.
- Squirrel generally avoided interacting with clients and patients, at least during the busy and chaotic times of regular appointment hours. She very begrudgingly complied as a demonstration animal for clients needing to learn how to give insulin injections or subcutaneous fluids to their own cats. However, Squirrel was quite nosy when it came to after-hours visits. We stopped doing small animal after hours emergencies in 2015, but prior to that, our doctors remember having to awkwardly close exam room doors during afterhours sick pet visits, even though no one else was in the building, simply to keep the Clinic Cat from butting in.
- Speaking of after-hours, Squirrel’s favorite activity just after closing time was to park herself on the rug in front of the front door. The glass front door faces west, and Squirrel was never one to miss a good nap basking in the late afternoon sun after the clinic had gone quiet.
- While she was loved by many, Squirrel definitely had her favorites. For most of her time at EVS, Dr. Joyce Brown, the veterinarian who saved her life and amputated her leg, was Squirrel’s “person,” and it is truly Dr. Brown who healed Squirrel and made her the icon she will always be to EVS. When Dr. Brown retired in 2018, Squirrel wasted little time in declaring the newly minted Dr. Katie Plozel (now Dr. Katie Ridenour) as her official favorite. We wish that Dr. Ridenour could have known Squirrel in her younger years, but they were a perfect match for Squirrel’s “golden years.” Squirrel had resting privileges in the windowsill by Dr. Ridenour’s desk, on the desk itself, and even in her desk drawer on a comfy sweatshirt. We don’t know if Dr. Ridenour would be embarrassed if we told you she bought Squirrel a cross-body pouch to be carried around in, but we don’t care. In the end, it was Dr. Ridenour who diagnosed and managed Squirrel’s hyperthyroid disease, treated her sinusitis flare-ups, managed her geriatric care, and ultimately eased her passing when her little body was too worn to keep going.
These are just a few of a lifetime of memories. The phones keep ringing, and the appointments keep coming, but in the rare quiet moments when things slow down, her presence is truly missed. All who worked here during Squirrel’s time will remember the petite tortoiseshell kitty, our Favorite Clinic Cat.