The InsiderOne Daily Report

  Wednesday, April 25, 2001

Taken For A Ride

InsiderOne's Michael Goldberg writes: I own a cat; her name is kit-kit. Don't laugh. My wife and I rescued her from Animal Care and Control in San Francisco about nine years ago. She was a tiny thing when I saw her in the cage, and something wild about her appealed to me. They took her out of the cage and let the cat get to know my wife and me. The cat recognized us for what we really were — a one-way ticket out of a very small cage. So she let us hold her and began purring like a maniac. Only after we got her home did we learn that she actually hated to be held, would never sit on your lap (at least for the first few years), and preferred to keep a distance of about ten feet between her and any human beings, including her owners. We took her home, and I named her kit-kit. Years went by. She was never sick, and we rarely took her to the vet. We moved to Sonoma a year ago, and last month we decided to take a vacation to China, and figured we'd need to board kit-kit. And that in turn raised the issue of "shots." Cats are supposed to get vaccines to prevent them from contacting rabies and other communicable diseases. It had been a while since kit-kit had gotten her shots. So we brought her to a new vet in Sonoma. When you check in at the vet we went to, they have you fill out a form, where, among other things, they ask, "Do you consider your pet a part of the family?" I consulted my wife. "Are you kidding?" she said. I decided to check the "yes" box but wrote in "sort of." These are the kinds of things that, on occasion, make my wife look at me like I'm crazy. Anyway, we waited around and kit-kit started making little sounds indicating her displeasure with being confined to a purple cat transport. The vet seemed to be a sensible, nice young woman who relates well to animals. Certainly our cat, who still likes to keep her distance (unless you're allergic to cats, in which case she'll try to sit on your lap), immediately warmed up to her new "doctor." After examining her, the vet told us that she had a tooth that needed to be pulled, and that this would cost us about $200. It was suggested that this tooth was uncomfortable for kit-kit and that we really needed to deal with the problem. Since we were going to board her for a week at the vet's anyway, we figured that would be the time to have the tooth extracted. However, what with the warm U.S.–China relations of late, a few weeks later we decided that perhaps this was not the most auspicious time to visit that particular country. Furthermore, we decided that a bit later in the year would be a better time for a vacation. Still, there was this tooth that needed extraction. So last Friday we loaded kit-kit into the purple pet transport and headed for the pet hospital. They make you sign a form agreeing to pay for the cost of treatment. Now it appeared that the charge was going to be $300. "The vet told us $200," my wife said. "I wish they'd write it down when they tell you that," said the receptionist. "Well, it won't be more than $300." When they pull a cat's tooth, they need to "put them under." Whenever a cat is going to be anesthetized, they like to test their blood, and do some other procedures. Each of these procedures has a fee attached. "What about cleaning her teeth while she's 'under'?" my wife asked. Yes, they'd clean her teeth too. Later that day, I called the vet and was told that "kit-kit is doing just fine, and she's all ready to go." When we got to the vet's my wife decided to wait in the car. Inside, I was presented with the bill, which included a brief note from the vet, who had gone home for the day. The note said that, once kit-kit was "under," they had ascertained that she didn't need her tooth pulled. They had cleaned her teeth, and the tooth that had previously needed to be pulled now needed to be "watched." "How do you want to pay for this?" I was asked. The fee was $253. I don't understand, I said. Can I talk to the vet? I was told I could call her in the morning. For some reason, they had also charged for some antibiotics, that we were supposed to give kit-kit each morning. I felt slightly dazed, which may explain why I handed over my ATM debit card. Back in the car, with kit-kit, in the pet transport, in the back seat, I told my wife that they hadn't pulled the tooth. "$253 to clean her teeth? When I get my teeth cleaned it doesn't cost $253," she said. You have to imagine the mix of anger, sarcasm and disgust. "You paid it?" I nodded. Then there was the question of the antibiotics. "Why does she need antibiotics? She got her teeth cleaned?" The next day, my wife called the vet. They exchanged words. The vet had long explanations for each question my wife asked. My wife made some comments like "Yeah sure." The conversation ended abruptly when my wife told the vet that she was thinking of calling the Better Business Bureau, and then hung up. "The tip-off was that question, 'Do you consider your pet a part of the family?'" said my wife. Ever feel like you've been taken?

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Michael Goldberg is the president of He founded Addicted To Noise in 1994.

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