Wednesday, April 16, 2014

April 2014

(AKA Cats on the Couch) 

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Dear Readers,

My next confirmed library appearance will be in Hoboken. I will have a feline Co-speaker. Do come along with all of your questions. 
Here’s the venue:

Hoboken, New Jersey 
Hoboken Public Library, 500 Park Avenue 
June 12, 2014 Thursday at 6:00 P.M.

“Baby was adopted today,” I was told as I arrived at Westside Veterinary Center, where I am in residence. “ Wow, that really makes my day,” I said. Her new guardians would take her home on the weekend so I had some time to hang out with her before I said Good Bye. Baby would be their only cat. The couple’s cat had passed on, and they preferred to rescue an older cat. 

Baby is twelve -- definitely a senior cat. When she was diagnosed with diabetes her previous guardian couldn't deal with daily injections of insulin.  So Baby became homeless.  Now she would be living with guardians who could and would give her the care she needed.  And were they in for a treat.

She purrs to head strokes, tummy rubs, and often a smile her way will light up her face. Play time is another high-point for Baby. She so appreciates attention and gives so much back in affection. Baby and the word “gratitude” are synonymous.

I must confess I have a major attraction to black cats. Evidently Baby’s guardians do too. As I talked and played with Baby, I realized how we’d all miss her, but Baby, a senior cat is going to live with an older couple.  Her new home is a perfect match.

Train Chasing Dog

Yes, my Orion is smiling and relaxed.  He’s so proud of the Metro Railroad conductor who braked for the daredevil dog who ran along the tracks. And especially proud of the New Yorkers and other riders who cheered when the dog and train reached Grand Central. A real New York story. This amazing dog, now named Tie, has many potential adopters if Tie’s guardian doesn’t appear.

(A Triple Loss Triggers Aggression.)
 As I bicycled home, I thought about Adam. He had lived with his partner and five cats. Within the last two years, his partner and their two older cats had passed on. Now it was three cats and Adam.  Caro and Bello, of ten years were his partner’s cats. Dante, of seven years was Adam’s cat. 

Truly, he loved all three, but now the boundaries had become blurred.

 Adam had contacted me to do a grief and restorative session because lately Dante had become aggressive with his two companions. They used to be very close, and Dante was the lowest on the cat pole. But no more. Caro and Bello even started to retreat to the kitchen cabinets when Dante was on the attack. The kitchen had become their security spot. Adam didn’t know what to make of it.

I told Adam that a triple loss had triggered Dante’s abusive behavior toward his companions.  With the loss of his partner, Adam was now the sole guardian for the three cats, whereas before, Dante had Adam as his prime person, and Caro and Bello had his partner. But now that Dante had to share Adam, he felt betrayed and anxious. Caro and Bello,who had lost their special person, resorted to ‘flight’ as Dante chose ‘fight’. The two guys became his tension targets.  
Caro & Bello

”So much loss and so much grief for the three of you,” I said. Fortunately, Adam realized he needed some professional intervention and reached out before the situation became hopeless.

When I arrived at Adam’s apartment, I selected some relaxation music on my iPad to ease the cat-mosphere and gave Adam a CD so he could carry on after the session with the reinforcement of the relaxed mood.
 I explained that at first we would concentrate on Dante, because the better he felt, the better he would react with his companions. As I took a case history, the music played, and I sprinkled some catnip on some tissue paper. Very slowly Dante decided to take a taste, and his body slowly loosened. The other two guys were stretched out in the kitchen cabinets.

 I told Adam that he should put a flexible gate on the kitchen doorway so Caro and Bello would always feel safe when they wanted to move about in the kitchen. Once they realized that Dante couldn’t get to them, they wouldn’t feel so threatened. It would probably take a week or so before they really felt safe. I reassured Adam that they would not be kitchen- sequestered forever. But for now, they needed to feel confident and to slowly defuse their fear in this small protected space.  As they felt less anxious, Dante would too.

This is the treatment plan I devised:
  • Once Caro and Bello have settled, gradually move their food close to the gate and Dante’s on the other side. This will enable them to face each other without physical contact.
  • Several days after they’ve accepted this arrangement, use a toy or two to play with the three of them on either side of the gate. This engagement will chip away at their angst. As they’re diverted by play, they’ll begin to slowly interact with less and less animosity at such close proximity.
  • Their CD should play continuously to reinforce the associations from their session. "It will be relaxation for the four of you."
  • Add a supplement of Omega-3 fatty acids to their food -- especially for Dante who has had skin problems.
  • A horizontal scratching pad and vertical post from Felix Katnip Tree will give them a hearty workout.
  • The laser light is another source of fun for them.        
  • When possible, arrange for a cat-loving friend to play with the two guys as you interact with Dante.
Adam was pleased and relieved to have a treatment plan, but I told him it was his interactions with Caro and Bello that upset and freaked Dante out.  “ But I have to give them attention.  I’m all they have,” said Adam. I nodded in agreement and told Adam there was a way to do this where Dante would feel included -- instead of rejected and furious. 

 Whenever he interacted with Caro and Bello, even if he was positive that Dante couldn’t hear or see, he should mention Dante’s name. This way Dante’s radar would be stroked instead of neglected. It would take time and repetition, but this was the key.

“What about when they need to be brushed or fed?” Adam asked.
You can say “I’m brushing them so you don’t have to do it and feeding them so they don’t eat your food."
 “I get it. Dante will react to my body language and tone of voice -- happy familiarity.”

Before I left, I did a distant Reiki treatment for balance of mind, body and emotional well-being. If we did a follow-up session, I would give Adam a chair treatment, and his cats would be included.  

When Adam contacts me with a progress report, I will evaluate and decide if an anti-anxiety drug and/or homeopathic remedy will be needed to supplement their behavioral/emotional treatment.  He agrees that he wants to initiate their new behavioral program first.

The recovery and fence-mending will take time, but I felt that the session was a break-through for the whole family.  Adam has the will and patience to see them through.

(Orion, a former rescue, will represent cats and offer nuggets of wisdom regarding Bo and Sunny, the rescued First Dogs -- Portuguese Water Dogs)

Our neighborhood deli recently received a $400 fine because they had a cat on their premises. Orion rightly concludes that customers would prefer to have a cat in residence instead of a mouse or vermin. As long as the litter box is clean and the cat is in good health, what’s the problem?  

This may be an issue to be evaluated by The First Lady and Pres.

Sabrina was devastated when her companion passed on of cancer. That was a few months ago. Although she seemed mostly recovered, Sabrina still wasn’t her usual self and her guardian Kathy wanted me to make a home visit to evaluate her condition. She mentioned Sabrina used to always sleep in a stretched out relaxed position and sent me a photo so I could see. But now Sabrina slept all curled up and never looked as comfy and happy as before. I told Kathy that this photo was a metaphor for how she felt ‘before’.  Her changed way of sleeping mirrored her tight, contracted feelings ‘after’ the loss of her companion Sydney.

I arranged to do a grief therapy session for Sabrina and Kathy and will
write about Sabrina’s breakthroughs in my May Blog.

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