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Tuesday, December 21, 2010


I've been practicing for 13 years, so it takes a lot for a client to really surprise or startle me.  Today this happened.

The client came in because her cat had been in a fight last night and had a swollen leg.  Not necessarily a big deal, as I suspected an abscess or other injury.  When my tech came out of the room after the initial exam, he said that the client seemed a little bit strange and wasn't being reasonable.  For example, she refused to let us weigh the cat, saying he was "about 13 pounds" but not letting us confirm (I was able to weigh him later and he was 14.3 pounds).  I've seen some strange clients, so I didn't worry about it much at that point, figuring it would be just another odd interaction.  Little did I know....

So I went into the room, introduced myself, and said hello to the cat.  As I was first beginning my exam, I said "So I hear he was in a bit of a fight last nigh."  All of a sudden...MMRREEEOWWWWW!!!  A loud, extended, unexpected scream.  From the client!  I'm not kidding.  The cat was well behaved and quiet.  But the client let out with the loudest cat-scream I have ever heard, and it went on for several seconds.  I was truly and completely startled, and even a bit scared.  There was no warning or preface at all, just the sudden scream.  At first I honestly wondered if the client was having a sudden fit or even an episode of Tourette syndrome.  I just stood there startled, not really sure what to say or do, and almost asked her if she was okay.  I've never seen a human make such a loud, startling noise without any reason.

Then she said "and that's what it was like all night," meaning the cats.  Really?  You could have warned me ahead of time!  "All night this was all I heard..." and then make the sound.  Sure, it would still be strange, but there would have been some warning and context.  Wow.

And y'know what? She did the scream again later in the visit, though not quite so loud.  Why she felt the need to repeat it I'm not certain.

I really think this client wasn't the sharpest knife in the drawer (not being intentionally mean).  She said that another vet had diagnosed the cat with feline leukemia, probably acquired from getting into fights.  This surprised me since he was an outside cat.  So I pointed out that by keeping him outside she was allowing him to infect other cats when he fought.  She said "Oh, I've never thought about it that way."  Really?  He became infected through fight wounds yet it didn't occur to her that he could infect others through fight wounds?

In the end we treated the cat for infection and fever and I think he'll do okay as long as the leukemia doesn't activate.  But this was truly one of the strangest client experiences I've ever had.