My cat was going bald, which is a common occurrence that apparently everybody knows about except me.
“She’s stressed” said my assistant “It happened to my cat when we were renovating.”
“She’s stressed” said my psych nurse best friend “She needs antidepressants.” Though, to be honest, my friend thinks everybody should be on anti-depressants.
“She’s stressed” said my daughters “You should spend more time with her.” Which I thought was very unfair seeing as I usually leave the cat in order to go and see the kids!
To start the story at the beginning, when we got back from the Cape last year, on top of trashing the house, I thought Joel had shaved the cat’s bum. Poor thing looked very mangy! But then her hair kept falling out, and the patch kept getting bigger and bigger, all down one side from her tail right up to her belly. It didn’t seem to be bothering her at all much – she wasn’t scratching or meowing. And she certainly wasn’t off her food!!! So on the basis that if it doesn’t bother her it doesn’t bother me, I didn’t rush to do much.
I tried worming her but that didn’t do any good, so eventually I took her to the vet.
“Has she been grooming herself a lot?” asked the vet
“No” I said, “Yes” said Doc, simultaneously. I looked at him questioningly. “She licks herself all night long” he said. That explained why I hadn’t noticed – I sleep all night whereas Doc is an insomniac.
“She’s stressed” said the vet, who very fortunately for all concerned didn’t suggest counselling.
I suppose I should have twigged when she followed me around all day and jumped on my lap whenever I sat down, and would only eat her food when I stood next to her. But I had no idea cats could get stressed. They’re cats for god’s sake! Independent, free, aristocratic.
So Doc and I had to try to break her of the licking habit before she went completely bald and started making holes in her skin. That meant lots of interrupted nights because that’s when most of the licking would happen. Lucky Doc sleeps badly anyway, if it was solely up to me she’d probably be completely bald by now. Every time she started licking, one of us (usually Doc) would nudge her to stop. By about the third time he would lose patience and start kicking – at me to wake me up. I’m not good at being woken up. I did it when my kids were young but that was many years ago and I’m out of the habit. I like my sleep!
So my solution was to take the cat into bed with me and hold her still. That way we all won – she couldn’t move, I could stay asleep and she felt loved and therefore less stressed! It’s the same solution I used with my third child so I didn’t have to get out of bed in the middle of the night to feed him. It worked then, I figured it should work now.
And it did, sort of. We’ve almost broken the licking habit – her hair is growing back and now she only licks herself when I stop spooning her in bed!