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Cat Couture as Anxiety Cure

On Facebook, I belong to a couple of cat groups because I enjoy seeing the photos and hearing snippets of stories about cats. On one of the groups, I saw that a woman named Penny Cardino posted adorable photos of her cat Shadow dressed in a Christmas dress. Before you think I am talking about a woman with too much time on her hands, playing dolls with her cat, learn the reason for this. Shadow suffers from a severe anxiety disorder. Wearing her Christmas dress makes her happy. I knew that thundershirts sometimes work for dogs with anxiety, although I haven’t personally heard of a cat who has been helped by one (that I can recall). But this was the first time I had heard about using clothing to comfort an anxious cat. Penny agreed to be interviewed about Shadow and her anxiety problem.

Where did you get Shadow and how long have you had her?

We found Shadow in at a gas station in 2011. Our vet said she was about 7 weeks old and looked to have been abandoned. The first night she would not come to us, but we could tell she was very hungry. She would walk up and then dart away quickly. I went inside and got her something to eat and a cup of water. It took us three days, but we finally managed to get her trapped. A good friend of mine kept her over the weekend for me while we were trying to decide if we could keep her or not (we have a very territorial male Siamese). We decided that she had been through enough and thought that Ashby (the Siamese) would come to accept her. That was almost 8 years ago.

When did you first learn about Shadow’s anxiety?

While we were gone during the day, we kept her in a huge kennel in our son’s room so she and Ashby could get acquainted safely. We would go in and shut the door and spend time with her. She would sleep with William (our son) and then, about four months after we brought her home, we eventually just let her stay out and put the kennel away. She always wanted to go to William’s room at night and sleep with him but she didn’t want to stay in there by herself, especially in the dark. She would follow him to his room, and later we would hear her crying to get out. At that time, I did not think anything about it–I just thought she wanted to be in the living room with everyone else.

Then she would start to cry if someone new came to visit. The crying got worse; it went on for hours and nothing would settle her down. She would pace constantly. Her cries were loud and long. We talked to our vet; I really did not want to medicate her because it was not an everyday thing. Mainly, it happens when the security system goes off, visitors come to the house, or if there is work being done around the neighborhood close to the house. I started letting her go to William’s room when company came, but I would have to turn the light on for her. Occasionally, if the house was very quiet, she would call out intermittently, as if she were looking for someone. We finally answered her one night and said, “we are right here.” She quieted down, and it was as if she were making sure she was not alone.

I started to make mental notes of how frequently she had these episodes and how long they lasted. There are times that we come home from work and she is in the midst of an episode and we have no clue as to what started it. Shadow is strictly an indoor cat; Ashby is as well. Shadow wants nothing to do with the outside, and she panics if we are holding her and open the door to look outside. She will push it shut with her paws.

How does her anxiety show itself?

When Shadow has an anxiety attack, she usually starts to cry back to back. She has different vocalizations, and we have learned them, but her anxiety sounds very distressed. She paces back and forth, she won’t eat, drink, play or get on her cat tree. Her episodes can last from a day to a week, depending on the event that led to it. Her cries will break your heart because they are long and mournful. She does cry in her sleep at times and has nightmares. William says he hears her crying and will wake up and talk to her, stroke her head and let her know he is there until she calms down. What is odd about this is that during her nightmares, her eyes never open.

How did you learn to put the clothing on her? Did you try a thundershirt first and what happened?

I used to swaddle William when he was an infant after a bath or when he would cry. I would rock him until he settled down. So I wondered what would happen if I tried that with Shadow. I saw the thundershirt commercial and tried it, but she started bucking like a bronco and her cries were more piercing. I also tried a little Prozac, but that made her sick as she does not tolerate medications well.

While out shopping for a baby shower gift, I came across a baby t-shirt that was very soft and seemed like it might fit Shadow. I decided to see if this would work better than the thundershirt. When the next anxiety episode hit, I put on her shirt and she jumped down, walked over to her daddy, and jumped up on his lap. She talked to him and her meows were not distressful. She sat with him for a bit, then jumped down but her demeanor was totally different–she was more calm and not pacing. Shadow went and got on her cat tree and actually took a nap. We were amazed that this one little shirt would make such a difference.

I have tried different materials and different styles. She is not a fan of tutus or anything that has a real tight band around the “waist.” Occasionally, she will wear a hat for picture purposes and then I take the hat off. We never leave her clothes on while we are gone; she only wears them when we are home. She last had an episode that lasted three days, our neighbor stopped by to give us some homemade pickle relish and it set off her anxiety.

Have you swaddled or clothed other animals or seen it done before?

My grandmother had a Yorkie that came from a neglectful situation and had to have all of her hair cut off. The mats were so bad that the groomer shaved her entire body, leaving only the hair on her head and tail. This dog would not come out of the bedroom and looked pitiful if we had to go somewhere. So my grandmother bought her a hair bow and a big open bag. In the bag, along with her wallet with money and ID, she paced a baby pillow. Then she fixed that pup’s hair in a bow and off they would go. They went everywhere: to the mall, Walmart, but Dillard’s was their favorite. Everyone would come peek at “Sandy.” For some reason, that little dog perked up and had a completely different attitude when her hair was fixed. She eventually grew a beautiful coat, but still wanted her hair done up in her bow.

Do you have other animals?

We have two other animals–Ashby, our Siamese and Whiskey, our Black Mouth cur.
Ashby will be 9 in March and Whiskey will be 9 in February. Whiskey will not stay still long enough for a picture. Ashby has many, many pictures.

Shadow and Ashby

What else would you like to say about Shadow?!

Shadow is a special girl; she helped my son when he was in elementary school. While he had many friends, he would still get bullied or made fun of and I would talk with him or try and make the hurt go away. Sometimes a parent just can’t make it better no matter how hard we try. But Shadow could make it better. I heard him talking to her one day; he told her that she knew how he felt. He told her that the person that abandoned her was a big bully and she understood how much it hurt him when the kids would laugh at him for being smart or a little overweight because of what she had gone through. Once in awhile, he would cry into her fur and she just sat with him while he let it out. When he and I would talk again, he would feel better. He has learned how handle the bullies.

William and Shadow

Shortly after receiving Shadow’s help, William wanted to tell Shadow’s story. He said that his peers needed to know how “dumping” an animal is cruel, both mentally and physically, so he created a Facebook page for Shadow called Shadow’s Sanctuary. He says that he did this so he could show people the long term effects of being abandoned have on the animal and the people who care for them. Shadow has about 1,000 followers. He hopes to break the cycle of abandonment. William is now 17 and Shadow is still by his side. She is afraid of the dark, unless we are with her. If we know we are going to be out after dark, we always leave a light on for her so she isn’t afraid. She loves her brother, Ashby, and is crazy about my husband. It takes a long time for someone to gain her trust, but once they do, they have a friend for life. I often wonder though, with Shadow, who rescued whom.

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Luanne’s comment: I realized after reading Merril’s comment below that I ought to make a comment about dressing cats in the general, as opposed to the particular as in the case of Shadow. Most cats are stressed out by being dressed up. It isn’t something to try just for the fun of it, unless you are talking about cats who are willing to wear hats and jewelry for photos (as some of mine are). Years ago, my daughter tried to put a sweater on Tiger, and Tiger was so upset it took her four years to forgive her human sister! But Penny’s story about Shadow shows that all cats are different and have different needs. The trick is figuring out what they need and when. That is something that Penny and her family have mastered!

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Filed under #writerlife, #writerslife, Cats and Other Animals, Nonfiction

Mostly Cats

This past week has been exhausting. More travel–to California this time–and time spent at the ER (for the gardener, not me). There’s a story in that ER visit, but I don’t have it in me right now. Scary place, that ER.

The only good thing was that the waiting room had a poster about their therapy dogs. Notice they call them “pets,” but there aren’t any cats. Speciesist of them! Still, I do love when hospitals use therapy animals.

I had occasion to visit Riverside, California, for the first time in awhile. I did my PhD work in that city. Riverside has been a faded flower since I have known it, but you can see that once upon a time it was a gorgeous city. The palm-lined streets are one of the remnants of those days. This particular street grew them taller than I had ever seen before.

Because of all the hubbub of travel and the gardener’s illness (undiagnosed as of yet), I got zero writing done. However, I did make a couple of submissions so that I felt as if I were doing something in the writing department.

I also finished up the calls to the June cat adopters with 100% satisfaction. (I am pretty relentless and track them down eventually). I have a poster to share with you. Feel free to share it around if you’re so inclined. The senior cats on the poster are not at our shelter, but are in Phoenix, Arizona. Their owner, a lady with eleven cats, has a terminal illness–and we are trying to find homes for the cats. There are three seniors left that really need loving homes. They do not have to be adopted together. I watermarked the poster that my daughter made so that even if you share it, I can be found. If you share, just mention that these cats are available in July 2018 and that they can contact me through this blog if they want to find out more.

You want to see even more cat pix? Is that what you said? OK, here are my cats’ headshots. I took them in case they decide to become actors. What do you think? If you notice seven, instead of six, that is because I’ve been babysitting my grandcat Isabella Rose, or Izzie.

Pear Blossom, 18 years old (photobomb care of Perry)

Felix, 12 years old

Tiger, 14 years old

Kana, 11 years old

Sloopy Anne, 7 years old

Perry, 2.5-3 years old

Isabella Rose, 8 years old

Trust me: senior cats are WONDERFUL, so feel free to adopt one of those three from the poster :).

Have a purrfectly wonderful week!

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Filed under #writerlife, #writerslife, Arizona, California, Cats and Other Animals, Nonfiction, Sightseeing & Travel, Writing

Official Cat Update

The big news around our house is that we finally adopted Perry. He’s no longer our foster cat, but our permanent family member.

Perry is full of cuteness. He still fetches and cuddles and licks. He also sits up on his butt like a little meerkat. He looks like he’s praying.

Perry seems to be feeling ok. He’s been out more with the other cats, annoying Felix and Kana in particular. He wants to spoon with Felix, and Felix won’t stand for it, but then Felix wanders the kitchen looking for a safe place and not finding one. He wears a forlorn expression now, except early morning and evening when Perry is in his room. Kana can’t even eat in peace. Perry lies in wait to grab her food as soon as she is done.

Yup, Kana is eating in the pic. And that is Perry on our left, smelling that special hypoallergenic kibble.

I had a nightmare last week about Kana. It went on and on and on. I kept waking up, only to fall back asleep into the same dream. My cats were at the neighbor’s house (but it wasn’t my neighborhood or my neighbor’s house and there were no people in the dream) and when I went to get them, the front door was open about 5″. I grabbed a couple of cats and ran them home, slamming that door shut behind me. Then I went back for more cats. When I looked around my house, I realized Kana was gone. I couldn’t find her anywhere. She must have gotten out before I got to my neighbors. This dream was on repeat for SO long.

Kana

The day after the dream I realized it was Black Cat Appreciation Day. So I dunno. But one of the triggers for the dream was probably what happened a while back. SLOOPY ANNE GOT OUT OF MY HOUSE IN THE DARK OF NIGHT! If you have indoor/outdoor cats and have had no problems, bully for you. But in my neighborhood, there is a pack of gynormous coyotes and the humongousest bobcat of all. There are no living cats in my neighborhood which was why we had to trap Perry and get him indoors right away.

What must have happened was that the gardener was grilling a burger for himself and, since he’s Sloopy Anne’s favorite person, she must have followed him outside. He spotted her sitting under a patio chair, although it was so dark even with the patio light that at first he thought it was a generic cat, not one of OUR cats. Then he realized it was our sweet pea. We both started trying to get her. Understand that she’s the cat that is the most difficult to catch of all six. I couldn’t even bring her to the vet for a recheck after her teeth cleaning because she was too wily.

If it hadn’t been so serious and scary, our attempts to grab her would have been quite the slapstick. We, and especially me, ran through all the flower beds and bushes as Sloopy Anne climbed the palo verde trees, the outside wall, and even the oleanders (which are toxic to animals). She sat up on a tree branch taunting me. I began to think about the long night ahead. I realized I would have to sit outside, ready to scare off coyotes, if we couldn’t get her to come in. At one point my bad foot came down on a rock half embedded in the dirt, I twisted my ankle, and fell–smack into freshly cut tree branches and bushes with thistles. YAY! The more we ran after her, the more the old Sloopster refined her movements, thereby reducing her exertion, but keeping us moving.

When there is an urgent situation (or an emergency), the gardener is more of the panic-driven-take-charge type. I am more of the calm-and-hyper-focused-fall-apart-later type. And he’s never tried to grab Sloopy Anne in his life, leaving that sport to me. So he was trying to call the shots. Giving me a sheet to throw over her, telling me go run that way and I’ll go this way, that sort of thing. For a half hour. Finally, I yelled at him to go to the other side of the patio and stay away. He was so worn out at that point, he slunk off. walked over to where I told him to wait. Then I ran and opened all three doors to the outside: front, side, garage. Within five minutes Sloopy Anne went near the gardener, he chased her inside, and I scurried on my don’t-ever-run-again foot and the other foot to slam the doors shut. Sweet pea captured. Whew.

I started shaking at that point. Later, when I was able to think clearly, I noticed and thought about a few things.

  1. I was lucky I didn’t get hurt worse. I had abrasions and bruises all over, even on my forehead, but these are all easily healed with no long-term effects.
  2. Whenever I am outside, I avoid shadows and dark areas religiously. One never knows where a rattlesnake waits, ready to strike. But I never gave them a thought when I was worried about Sloopy Anne. I get brave when I’m scared. It’s just afterwards when I think of what could have happened . . . .
  3. Sloopy Anne is mad about Perry. She doesn’t like him, and she’s the only one he’s scared of. Keep in mind, she’s a little thing, but moves back and forth along the bitchy to sweet scale very rapidly.
  4. Sloopy Anne LOVED climbing trees. And she had fun outside. She has no idea of the dangers, figuring she can just come back inside whenever the going gets tough. So now she sits by the glass door waiting for someone to open it so she can squeeze out.
  5. My other cats are not eager to go outside, although Kana and Tiger each have been out once before–but this was the first time one of US let a cat outside.
  6. I can’t trust the gardener any longer around doors.

 

Sloopy Anne

While I’m on the subject of cats, I wanted to mention elephants (because you know I love elephants, too). If you have been out and about–at least on the internet–in the last week, you know that the United States is set to betray elephants BIG TIME.  The Department of the Interior plans to allow imports of elephant and lion trophies from Africa! This gives a big green light to all the creeps in this country who want to kill elephants and cart home their serial killer trophies to remind them of their own evil.

You can watch Ellen DeGeneres talk about elephants in this video. For everyone who reposts or retweets the elephant photo she shows in the video and the hashtag #BeKindtoElephants on social media, Ellen will make a donation to The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.

On Saturday, Trump tweeted that he was going to take another look at this matter. Don’t let up the pressure.

GO. NOW. #BEKINDTOELEPHANTS and sign some of those many petitions circulating Facebook and Twitter!

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Filed under #AmWriting, #writerlife, #writerslife, Cats and Other Animals, Nonfiction

Perry and Mom Visit the Doctor

Just a brief update on Perry’s health. I took him to a veterinary internist yesterday, and he determined that Perry isn’t in an urgent situation. He either has this fast breathing response to stress or he might have a polyp which could probably be seen on a CT scan. Mind you, a CT scan is super expensive. (Of course it is). Yes, that was sarcasm.

I am hoping it is a reaction to stress and not an actual anatomical problem. Maybe it is stress that causes the tachypnea since he has shown a weird reaction to stress in the past. Remember that he was so stressed in the shelter that staff and volunteers thought he was feral because he was frozen in place (wouldn’t move) and when anybody tried to touch him he became hysterical and tried to climb the walls. So we will wait and watch for now. If symptoms get worse or any new symptoms appear I will bring him to the internist for the CT, credit card in hand. (Ugh).

By the way, Sarah, the tech who works for this internist, was absolutely amazing. She was so slow and gentle with Perry that he allowed himself to be examined with no sedation and no muzzle/mask. WOW!

We just got back from a trip to Lake Tahoe and the Reno area. I plan to blog about the trip eventually–both the sites and the gluten free travel (ugh and oy on this one), but right now I have piles of work.

Thought you might enjoy this very short ADORABLE video of my catdog Perry to start off your weekend right.

 

Anybody else a fan of the catdog cartoons? I used to love them. Yes, happiness can be very simple!

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Filed under #writerlife, Arizona, Cats and Other Animals, gluten free, gluten free travel, Writing

The Trick the Cat Learned

I’m writing this between Canada Day (this past Saturday) and Independence Day (tomorrow). Happy belated and future celebrations, y’all, you guys, youse, you’uns, and however you pronounce that direct address in Canada.

A brief update on Perry today. Since he was on his own for whoever-knows-how-long, he doesn’t like me to touch his head or his back, and he spends some of his time under the bed (and the rest on the bed or in his cat tree), but he is certainly learning his lessons well because I taught him a trick.

He’s pretty sweet, isn’t he?!

Here he is on the bed (that has lots of layers of covers on because of the deworming). By the way, today is dose #2.

So is Perry feral or not? My guess is that a lot of people would have automatically classified him as feral, but that he was somewhere on the continuum between socialized and feral–and that with some effort he is moving over toward the socialized side. It’s nice that he likes to lie on the bed with me to watch TV, likes to play with me, and taps my hand with his paw every time I ask.

I am reading the 2nd set of galleys for Kin Types. With an uptick in work lately and spending time with Perry, I stopped writing again. Ugh. I need to find a routine that works. Maybe writing in the bedroom with Perry? But that would be ignoring him!

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Filed under #writerlife, Cats and Other Animals, Kin Types, Poetry Collection, Publishing, Writing, Writing Talk

Threads and Threading

Not sure the title will make sense even after you read the post. Nothing in here about sewing.

The wedding was lovely. Although the wind was strong at the time of the wedding, we were blessed with sun and a brilliant blue sky and the perfect temperature air.

It’s taken me some time to recover from the wedding, the travel, and all the hubbub leading up to the wedding. Mom was with us for a couple of weeks, but has now returned home.

The honeymooners return from the Bahamas tonight. Their restful “tourist time” was enhanced by the hospitality of a Bahamian family who invited them to their home for dinner.

In the meantime, the requisite number of pre-orders was made for Kin Types, so the book ought to go to press soon. You can still pre-order, though, by following the link in the title.

I have been such a stick-in-the-mud with so much going on this winter that I haven’t had any readings and haven’t written for some time. I started to feel far away from Doll God, so I read it again and all the emotions and memories of events that are lodged in nooks and crannies of the poems came flooding back.

Perry is now out of his cage, loose in the room, but he is not used to the freedom yet. I had to make a couple little tents for him with sheets over a footstool and over a bench. He didn’t have a tent for one night, and I found that he had threaded his little blankie through the center of the footstool to make a wall for protection. The photo shows you what I mean.

This started me on the tent-making idea. I threw a sheet over this ottoman. Later, Perry showed that likes it if I lie on the floor and read and sing up close to the sheet. Then he lies on the other side of the sheet with his face pretty close to mine.

Gorgeous Moe and Maverick are still looking for a home. They love to play and are desperate for a rescue, if you know anybody in Arizona!

Moe

On another note, why do people think my choice of music is so odd? My new daughter’s mom and I were getting our hair and makeup done by the professionals in the bride’s hotel room for the wedding. Old Billy Currington music was on the CD player. I said, “This is one of my absolutely favorite songs!” Every person in the room said, “No! It isn’t!”

 

Oh YES, it is! I can listen to this song 30 times, and it still isn’t enough.

On the way home from California, the gardener, Mom, and I were listening to the radio and “Good Direction” came on again. I said, “I LOVE this song! It’s one of my favorites.”

Mom said, “NO, it isn’t! This is not one of your favorite songs.”

WHAT???????!!!!

So, the post title. Threads and Threading. All these threads I tried to tie up here for you: the wedding, Perry, my new chapbook, etc. And threading: what Perry did with his baby blanket. Heh. Well, at least I left you with a great song!

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Filed under Arizona, California, Cats and Other Animals, Doll God, Kin Types, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection, Publishing, Writing