September 16

In a Blink

I loved Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking about the power of gut reactions to situations that can’t always be explained but are often correct. Gladwell writes about the biology behind these instincts and how important they were to survival as we have developed as a species. He also chronicles the dangers of ignoring them.

An important Blink moment for me came this morning. I weighed Amber, our 8-wk-old, 1 lb 12oz foster kitten, as I do every morning. She had lost 1 oz yesterday, which I decided could be the timing of a trip to the litter box. This morning she was down to 1 lb 9.4oz which wouldn’t alarm most people. However, having fostered 19 kittens and cats (and 16 dogs and puppies) in the past 15 months, I am especially nervous about how quickly a kitten can get into trouble. There were no symptoms other than not eating much but my Blink reaction told me she needed to see the vet.

I called the great foster team at PAWS Chicago who got me an appointment at 1pm. I thought they’d give her an appetite stimulant and we’d be on our way. Everyone was shocked when little Amber tested positive for the dreaded virus Panleuk (Feline panleukopenia), the leading cause of death in kittens. A kitten with Panleuk can be dead within 24 hrs of developing symptoms. It’s heartbreakingly fast. So Amber went straight into quarantined emergency care and because we caught it before she developed symptoms, her chances of a recovery are good. Meanwhile we are embarking on massive disinfecting of our house because this powerful virus can survive on surfaces for over a year.

As luck would have it, our former foster, mellow 10-yr-old Chihuahua Piccolo, had been stood up by a foster who was supposed to pick him up over the weekend. While Panleuk is deadly to non-vaccinated cats, the feline version of the virus cannot be transmitted to dogs so Piccolo is back on my lap while Amber gets the care she needs.

I’ve been giving thanks all afternoon that I listened to my instincts and risked wasting my time and the precious time of PAWS vets. Because let’s face it: no one wants to be labeled the hypochondriac foster. What I love about the Blink book is the idea that there’s value to instincts that we can’t always explain. In this case those instincts likely saved a young life. I’m so, so glad I listened to them.