Guilty Conscience

We're taking Elliott (the cat) to the vet today for the first time. She lost two teeth in the last few weeks, so we thought we ought to get her checked out. When we got her she was nearly toothless, and the few that were left were awful and rotten, but the people at the shelter gave us the impression that there wasn't much we could do about it. She didn't seem like she was in any pain--she wasn't ever ginger about eating, and she didn't get mad if you touched her mouth, so I figured whatever, she's old.

We've had her for just over two years. I didn't realize that she was supposed to get a checkup every year, so she hasn't seen a vet since the shelter vet, which probably wasn't exactly the Kitty Mayo Clinic. And now I have this awful guilt about the whole thing, like I've been a horrible cat owner.

I've already got all these excuses lined up for the vet, as if they're child protective services instead of some nice cat doctor who just wants the best for people's pets. I'm not sure why, but all doctors and doctor-like entities bring out this same strange guilt in me. I turn into this complete liar.

Floss twice a day? Of course! Do a self breast exam every month? Each and every, no doubt about that. Eat right, exercise, sleep eight full hours? Check, check, and check. I'll lie about stuff the doctor doesn't even care about. I once told a dentist that I'd given up caffeine and red wine. I told my gyno that I'd turned vegan and did yoga.

I've been putting off getting a non-lady part checkup for two and a half years because I'm worried they'll yell at me about something. High cholesterol, maybe. Too many artificial sweeteners. Using the same gym shoes for years instead of replacing them every six months. I worry they'll somehow ferret out that I occasionally bum a cigarette at parties or tell me I need to lose weight or that my hair dye is giving me follicular cancer. The stupid part is, the longer I put off seeing the doctor or dentist or whoever, the more paranoid I get that something is horribly wrong with me. And the more paranoid I get, the less likely I am to go see someone because I don't want them to confirm my suspicions.

It's completely dumb. My dad's a doctor, so I know firsthand that they are nice people. I've never had a medical professional be mean to me. They even pretend to believe my outrageous fictions about adopting meditation and giving up refined sugar.

The more I think about it, the more I think that my problem is a combination of the hypochondria I've always had and the last vestiges of elementary school. I was that kid who always had to have a gold star. The best spelling grade. Etc. That annoying needy nerd now lives only for health care: tell me I'm healthy! Tell me I'm the healthiest!

So now I'm sitting here with the cat carrier out and both cats all freaked about it, feeling that awful doctor guilt in the pit of my stomach. I lied on the phone about how long we've had the cat because I didn't want them to realize she hadn't seen anyone last year, which is horrible, I know. I shouldn't have waited so long to take her in.

I just didn't realize that cats needed checkups every year. I thought that, like people, they could put it off until something went wrong, then go in and swear they'd been taking calcium supplements every day. Poor Elliott. I hope I haven't damaged her permanently. I've at least gotta be a better owner than the cat lady who dropped her off at the shelter, right? Right? Ugh.

UPDATE: Well, the vet was very nice. Not only did she not yell at anyone, she said that Elliott’s healthy and spry, except for her mouth, which is a rotten cesspit. She's got to have all her remaining teeth pulled which will, of course, cost more than any medical procedure either human in this house has had done ever, but that's the cost of doing business, I spose. In the end, it was all okay. Nobody got in trouble, and everyone feels better about the cat's health. Isn't that always the way? I should stop being such a spaz and get myself to the doctor for a check-up. Maybe in the spring, when I've shed my hibernation weight. Promise.