Monday, 28 January 2008

January 28st – Separation anxiety for cats and their humans.

Often the problem of separation anxiety appears prominent in some relationships of cats with their human but the problem in some other cases becomes even worse when the humans are the ones that they actually are suffering from separation anxiety, when they are away from their pets even more, even if it is only for a few hours and such choices or decisions such as going on holiday and being away from home and their cat become impossible to become ever reality...
When the cats are suffering from separation anxiety the advice that it is often given is simply to allow the cat to spend less time with their human and more on their own by being provided with alternatives such as play activities and toys, encouraged to keep some distance occasionally and even in some cases by getting another companion and generally try to wean to cat from the constant human company. But unfortunately in some cases it becomes more and more difficult to treat such an anxiety particularly when the cats' human(s) is at home all the time and that human is extremely attached to the cat and treats her/him like a surrogate child, being overprotective and pampering the cat at all times. People who spend a lot of time indoors with few social relationships with other people and who are depending on their pets for company and emotional solace are in need of advice and perhaps help as much as they are their pets. In such cases you need to treat the human's before you try to treat the cat's anxiety as it is also possible that this human separation anxiety will then pass easily to the cat as every other emotional imbalance when the humans and the pets in the household are very closed.
So by running to find out what is wrong any time the cat makes a noise not only will make the cat very spoilt and demanding as she will as a result learn how to get what she wants when she wants it but also will quite possibly lead to also physical along with psychological problems as any possible disturbance in that environment will end up be disastrous for human and cat e.g the human needs to spend some time away from the cat).
Cats are by nature independent creatures and they need to be treated as such. They need to have their own space and to be occasionally left alone even when they live permanently indoors and to also have a routine and discipline if they are to stay emotionally and psychologically healthy and that applies to their humans too, they too need to keep some distance from their pets and to remind themselves occasionally that they live with a cat and not with a small human.

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

January 16th – I am a Cat!!

It is a very common human tendency to see human attributes (to anthropomorphise) in our pets and to treat them as little 'humans'. But cats are extremely intelligent creatures as their humans will tell you and they can easily learn behaviours from us which sometimes will surprise us, make us wonder and even in some cases will annoy us!
It is well known that cats can be really stubborn, or very persistent and in some cases their persistence will even surpass ours...A good example is when they want something and have learned how to go about getting it... In most cases we will simply give in, with no much fuss as we can' be asked or bothered or we can't bear the thought of our cat seemingly being unhappy by not getting what she wants, food, attention, play time, etc. But then again there will be other occasions when we have to say no and try to ignore them as what they want they simply can't get and can't give them and this can be the hardest bit as they will keep on begging by either meowing, staring and generally using any method they can think of till eventually get what they want.
A good example in my case is Ripley's persistence to sit wherever I have sat before and in particular on my special spot in my sofa, the only one where I can sit comfortably and work on my laptop...but Ripley wants to sit there and she won't give in...She will just stand next to me while the rest of the sofa is empty and available and just stare at me with her big begging eyes (they look as begging to me anyway) for hours and she will refuse to move or sit to the empty and available place. Of course the moment I move from my spot and without actually have got up fully, Ripley will jump to the nearly empty seat and I'll have to be careful not to sit down again and squashed her.
Normally in such situations and other places I will give in and sit somewhere else but when I'm working I need to be in the right place, the right side of the sofa so I will have to push her gently away so I can sit down again with the whole process being repeated again and again, till finally I stop working and go downstairs leaving her to enjoy my own empty seat. But Ripley being Ripley and a cat the moment I leave the room she will decide that she doesn't want to be in that room as well and she will go to the bedroom and jump on the bed where she will stay till I come back again for the battle of the stubborn minds to begin once more!

Saturday, 12 January 2008

January 12th – Accidents do happen...The conclusion...the stitches are off. .

Finally, yesterday was the day when Ripley had to go to the vet's to have her tail stitches removed. In generally she has being a really good 'patient'. Ripley always has been the best cat when it comes to not causing any problems, she will eat anything you giver her, wet food or biscuits, she is quite happy to sleep on the sofa, bed, chair, etc wherever there is a space available without causing any fuss (except from her recently preference for the sofa upstairs, my seat, but this is a different subject for a different day), she will play on her own when she feels like and she will appreciate any kind of attention she is given, when it is given and of course she has never caused any kind of problem in the few occasions when she had to have stitches (when she was spayed and the very recent accident with her tail) which made the collar she was wearing a waste of time and caused a lot of unnecessary stress. During the period of two weeks that she had the stitches she didn't try even once to pull them off and she was only licking the area around the wound (although the first time I saw her licking around the stitches I panicked as my first thought was that she was trying to remove the stitches, but of course that wasn't really the case...). So I was pretty confident that her tail was healing perfectly and I was also pleased that the fur had started growing again and soon the tail would look like a proper one again, minus a couple of inches or according to the vet, minus one and a half inches. But nevertheless I was still worrying and was looking forward to the removal of the stitches day as I wanted to be reassured by the vet that everything was fine with her...On the other hand the stitches were really small and they looked so tempting to just try and remove them with a small pair of scissors on my own than having to put Ripley through the entire stressful situation of catching her and putting her into a basket and walk to the vets' to have the professional do it .... But I know better and I want the best possible care for my cat that I went of course for the best solution possible, well at least I thought I was, anyway. It has always being my strong belief through personal and working experience that stress can play a great factor in the wellbeing of a pet not only the psychological one but also the physiological one too and unfortunately in many cases far too often vets do not pay the required attention to the pet's level of stress or they see it as important as they should do which can lead to dire results. If the cat/pet is stressed will be less likely to recover quickly from any kind of illness and in some cases it can even contribute to make the situation worse or even cause an unexpected death. Therefore it is important to make certain that stress levels are always being taken into consideration along with any illness symptoms and every effort is made to relive that stress and comfort the cat to help with a speedy recovery.
So having to catch Ripley and put her into the basket was again a very stressful situation not only for her but for us as well and for Sheng Chi who is more attached to Ripley than Choo Choo and everything that seems to stress her upsets Sheng Chi too.
But at least this time the journey was only a couple of minutes just down the road and the whole 'operation' lasted a couple of minutes in which time the vet checked the condition of the now almost closed tail wound, which was doing fine and Ripley was fine when she arrived at the vets'. A behaviour that is quite common for many for many normally timid cats who seem to get in a panicking mode when they are first put in their basket and sometimes during the journey to the vet but the moment they arrive there and the vet takes them out of the basket they become the friendliest creatures ever and they allow the vet not only to handle them like they knew him/her for years but also they will go back into their basket with no problems whatsoever! Ripley has always being a timid cat who doesn't like strangers, people she doesn't know but she seemed OK with both vets that they examined her, she wasn't scared or made any kind of sound to show fear or any form of being scared, not even a bit...
But the good thing was that at least the stitches were finally off, her tail is healing fine and the fur has started growing again and the end of the shaved tail looks again like a cat's tail and she was safe and sound back home. All in all it took less than 15 minutes from the moment she was put into the basket till the moment she was out again looking for her bowl with biscuits... Although she has lost a little bit of her tail she is just fine and doesn't seem to care about the missing bit at all, happy to be in her familiar environment again, crunching away her favourite biscuits...

Monday, 7 January 2008

January 7th – Obsessive compulsive behaviours

When your cat shows symptoms of obsessive behaviour disorder it can then become a really difficult situation to cope with and as a result it can cause a lot of problems and stress to the cat and humans. Especially in cases when the disorder is caused by stress and anxiety which are difficult to figure out and any attempts to use some form of medication to help with the situation causes more stress to the cat. It becomes a vicious circle as the cat will continue lick or overgroom and bite the area to relive the stress the use of medication caused as licking and grooming is the way their use to calm themselves if they feel stressed and are in pain and therefore they will make things worse. What is normally required to stop them is usually trying to distract them or calm them so they can relax and get sufficient rest and sleep as sleep helps them boost their immune system and therefore get better sooner.
By of course the other difficult part along with treating the disorder is trying to figure out what has caused that behaviour, whether it is just stress or some other external cause such as skin irritation and reaction to products used in the house, food that they are allergic too, etc. It is often easier to pin the cause if it is just an allergic reaction but becomes more difficult if it is just stress as sometimes cats they would get upset by things which do not think or believe that they will upset them in the first place. In such cases when the cat shows the symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder it becomes difficult to treat her as the vet will normally prescribe some form of medication to ease the symptoms but he/she won't tell you what has caused it and as result the cat will either get used to the medication and soon will have no effect or the medicine will have some unwanted and unpleasant side effects.
So what is a solution? Of course you should have your cat checked by the vet to find out possible physical causes. But obsessive licking and overgrooming parts of the body in most cases will require for a cat to have a relaxed and safe environment, to be distracted wherever possible and to be given an alternative to use instead of grooming him/herself. Figuring out what causes her to behave that way it is also important as for any treatment to work it will require first of all the removal of the cause. Therefore it is better if the human carer tries to figure out what stresses and upsets her/his pet and not to depend on the vet to tell him/her.
He/she knows better the cat and he/she will be able to figure out what in her current environment upsets her/him as not always the cause is something that might have suddenly changed. Cats that are left on their own at home for hours with nothing to do on their own can easily start show signs of obsessive behaviour because of boredom as well as cats that become over attached to their humans. Sometimes our cats will need a lot of help and understanding from us but of course they worth it and therefore we should do whatever we can to help them.

Friday, 4 January 2008

January 4th – Accidents do happen ....Cats know best!

After seeing Ripley getting to her tail and being able to lick the shaved area despite the collar she was wearing and not really wanting to put on another one, bigger and probably more uncomfortable and causing a lot more distress I was left with not many options to what should have been the better solution for my cat. There was no way that I could have taken her back to the vets to have another collar fitted and I didn't really want to take off the one she was wearing despite the fact that it didn't seem to do what it was supposed to do in the first place. I wasn't totally sure that it would have being for the best if Ripley was not wearing the collar for at least a few more days as it was too soon, as only four days have passed since the 'operation' and the healing was still in process.
So the only thing it was left for us to do was to just leave her be and to keep an eye on her at all possible times and to try to prevent her from licking or getting to the stitches wherever possible and to keep an eye on the wound to see if it was healing or getting worse.
Of course as Ripley wasn't so keen with her new piece of neck wear she was trying to get it off any time she had the opportunity which meant that the ribbon that was wearing to keep the collar in its place was getting lose, she was pulling it and the knot was getting undone all the time and at the same time she was eating any piece of thread that was coming from the ribbon. So as we didn't want to tie the ribbon again and make it perhaps too tight and cause an accident the only thing we could do was to cut anything that it was hanging and it was out of place and to tie it up again and again and again...The whole thing seemed to turn to a nightmare as the collar seemed to cause more trouble than done any good and I was now counting the hours till the day we could have being able finally to take it off. To make things worse my other half had to travel to London the following day for business which meant that I wouldn't have being able to take Ripley to the vet if something gone wrong unless I had some extra she won't go inside her basket willingly and now with her injured tail it would have being more difficult for one person to even try!
But of course things not always going according to plan and our cats won't always do what we want them to do! So Ripley had a different opinion of how long she was going to wear that stupid collar and as cats are very intelligent and can figure out things for themselves it wasn't long before we found out on the same day the collar lying on its own under the bed and Ripley sitting happy and finally relaxed on the bed without a collar. Despite the fact that the collar was tied and very narrow at the end for her head to pass and that it was also tied up with the the ribbon she still manage to take it off without 'damaging' it. Unbelievable! Her tail seemed OK, the stitches were in place and Ripley was as happy as she was before the dreaded day of her accident, some four days before. To celebrate that new freedom she visited her bowl of biscuits a few times and she was able to eat without making a mesh and scattering all the biscuits outside, drunk plenty of water, ran freely in the rooms upstairs without bumping at doors and furniture and found her catnip cushion and had a good roll over on the carpet...
She was again a happy and relaxed cat, she could do all the things she couldn't do for four days. Even Sheng Chi finally decided to come upstairs without being scared of the black cat in the white collar anymore as now upstairs it was only Ripley sleeping on the bed and not hiding under it looking miserable and stressed.
As for her tail, well it has being now three days since the hood 'accidentally' came off and we have taken off today ourselves and she has not attempted to remove the stitches herself or seems to be bothered about them or the state of her tail anyway. Which it seems to support my beliefs once more that vets not always know what they are they would have simply told us to keep the hood for a few days and to observe the cat's behaviour if she was trying to get to the stitches to keep the hood for the whole week if not to simply remove it earlier. Besides they do not know Ripley as much as we do, she is not an adventurous cat and she have never needed a collar when she was spayed as she didn't bother with the stitches then...if the vet had simply asked me about her normal behaviour she wouldn't have to put her through this whole bad experience... a really stressful experience not only for Ripley but for the other two cats and of course us. So it seems to be true...not all vets are to be trusted and believed...

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

January 2nd - Accidents do happen...what's the point, really!

Cat carers usually trust their vet as they believe that they know better and they will do what is the best and suitable for their cat. But unfortunately this is not always the case. In many cases vets simply don't care, as for them your cat is one of the many animals they treat and if they get it wrong is not the end of the world! You can always replace him/her with another pet, it is only after all a pet..... These kinds of vets, and I'm not say here that all vets are the same, and hopefully these mentioned here are only the minority, do not really care for the animals they treat or they do not seem to have the passion that a vet needs to be able to do his/her job as he/she should. Vets that they are working in a place for only a few months and then they move to another place or even country are the worse people to treat your pet because they now that then next time you will visit they won't be there and of course they do not get the opportunity to somehow get to know and become familiar with the pets they are treating, particularly for these pets that they need to be treated regularly because of perhaps a chronic illness, etc.
Unfortunately my personal experience and the experiences of quite a few of cat carers I met due to behavioural issues have not being the best to restore my faith in the capabilities and knowledge of pet physiology and psychology in vets. We've lost three cats, the latest one being the one I was really attached to and whose loss was and still is a big shock and caused me a lot of distress, and all the three deaths were the result of either misdiagnosis or mistreatment of the cat.
So as you understand having to deal with vets again for the latest accident with Ripley's tail brought back stressful memories and for me reasonable doubt to everything that the vet said and done. I wanted to do the best I could for my cat but at the same time I wasn't sure that the vet did, especially when I've originally received conflicting opinions on how to first treat the damaged part of the tail (do, don't do...). But when we took her to the vets and we saw that there were quite a few there and we were asked to see one and then another performed the operation and somebody else informed us on the treatment and what was left for us to do I started to feel worried and very uncomfortable with the whole situation...
But as I said I simply wanted to treat the injured tail and do whatever was required to prevent further problems with the injury and of course to take her home as soon as possible as the whole experience was a very traumatic for her and had caused her a lot of stress and of course pain. So I accepted the idea that she will need to lose part of the tail as it was really damaged (this is the point that I gave a really really nasty look to my partner again as this was all of his fault as he was careless and closed the door without checking whether there was a cat near by and as result damaged Ripley's tail and made it necessary to have to see a vet), that she would also have to wear that very uncomfortable Elizabethan collar for a week so she couldn't get to her tail's stitches and therefore allowed the wound to close up quickly. But of course I didn't like the idea of her wearing something that looked so uncomfortable and make it very difficult for her to eat (a very messy busy business and also made it impossible for her to eat her favourite food, pate flavoured meat or fish as the pate would got stuck in the collar and she will have to carry food that she couldn't even reach with her 'hood' along) and even getting biscuits from a very wide bowl was extremely difficult for her to do as well as drinking too and let's not discuss how difficult she found it to move around as she was constantly bumping into furniture and miscalculating distances and of course she couldn't sleep properly as she couldn't curl up as she will normally do. The whole situation was very unpleasant and stressful for her and the other cats too who saw her as a strange outside creature and kept their distances from her and as a result she spent most of her time under the bed hiding and only coming out occasionally to try to eat and for us to scratch her neck and other areas which she couldn't get to on her own, while she was wearing that silly collar. But I thought, what the hell, it is only for a week and it is for her own good!.
But what is the f****** point of putting an uncomfortable collar to a cat for an injury that she can get to it with or without the collar? The tail is after all an easy place that cats can get to it and lick it particularly when that area has being shaved and there are stitches hanging from the end area, they only have to turn around and to start licking without being stopped by that stupid collar. Do the vets really think before they recommend solutions to such problems? It would have made some sort of sense if the wound was next to the head or neck area so she can't get to them to lick or an area in the face so she can't scratch it, although cats are pretty clever, intelligent and they can always figure out ways of doing things. But putting a silly collar on a cat and stressing her more than she has to it it is a rather careless and unprofessional method of treatment from the vet's part.
So when we phoned the vet again, now worrying that she will manage to get the stitches off before the wound has the time to heal properly, what do you think that our 'professional' vet did suggest? He told us that we should take her to our local branch (the one that opens strange hours) on Monday and having a new and bigger collar fitted so it could stop Ripley from getting to her stitches. Of course the thing that our clever vet didn't think of is that a bigger 'hood' will also mean more discomfort for the cat who she won't then be able to get to her food or drink at all or she would be able to move through furniture, as she has already problems with eating, drinking and moving and let's not forget the inconvenience of being unable to lick and scratch herself, and every time she is trying to lick herself with her tongue she ends up licking the surface of the hood instead.
A bigger collar will not solve the problem, it will simply make it worse as the cat will be more stressed, unable to eat, drink , move and sleep and the healing process will take longer as the cat will be more stressed and of course it is also possible that during this period that she might get dehydrated and malnourished which won't help the healing process at all. And of course we should not forget the other two cats and particularly Sheng Chi who has freaked out with Ripley's appearance and she hasn't come upstairs since the day Ripley came back from the vet's with her new 'garment'.
So taking Ripley to vet's so soon to put another bigger collar was definitely out of the question and the only thing we could do was to keep on the one she was already wearing (although I was very much tempted to take it off but my partner said that we should keep it on even if it wasn't doing its job as well as it was supposed to do) and to try to distract her and stop her when we saw her licking the end of the tail with stitches, creating a bad association with licking the tail will stop her from wanting to lick as she will then consider the action as not rewarding. But of course as many cat owners would know things not always going according to plan when you are dealing with cats because cats have their opinion and mind when it comes to what they should and shouldn't do....(to be continued).