Tuesday, April 15, 2008

cat and owner suffer from same disease, news at 11*

It's been a while since I last suffered a bout of separation anxiety. I've blogged about previous bouts before but in case you missed it, I basically became an unstable person in Jesse's absence, unable to perform some basic life functions just because I couldn't deal with the void he left. To romanticize it, I would say that Jesse took a part of me with him and I feel incomplete when he's away. But to be logical about it, the separation anxiety I felt was simply a symptom of a much larger problem and my inability to deal with loss is at the root of the generalized anxiety disorder I suffer from.

I must say that since we adopted Nicky, I haven't really felt alone and abandoned whenever Jesse is out of town. In fact, Nicky is SO good at filling the void of Jesse's absence that he actually sleeps in Jesse's spot in the bed, even resting his head on Jesse's pillow. Moreover, Nicky does the same for Jesse when I am out of town.

Since we got him, Nicky has become incredibly attached to us. I grew up with cats who were mostly independent and aloof, but Nicky is neither of these things. He is an attention-seeker and I suspect he has a fear of being alone. Whenever we're home, Nicky will cry until he gets a rub or scratch or a toy thrown his way. When play time is over, he'll come to where either of us are sitting and just lay next to us, with his back against our legs or an outstretched paw towards our hands.

nicky attacks!

The attachment is very sweet, but it becomes increasingly difficult to leave him at home. He cries incessantly for attention right before we leave and positions himself between us and the door as soon as he hears the jingle of keys. It's such a sad sight to see that even I start to feel a little anxious when we leave (ok, maybe a lot anxious).

guarding the door...
nicky's napping spot

When Jesse or I get home, it's the same story. As soon as we put the key in the door, we can hear his little cries. The door swings open to reveal a (LOUD) crying kitty. Before my heart begins to break (and I mentally scold myself for leaving him alone), I pick him up and give him lots of attention. When I put him down, he begins to cry again. I feed him and he still cries. He does the same thing to Jesse as soon as he gets home.

One day, while giving Nicky a belly rub, I noticed a bald spot on his leg. I had no idea where it came from. I showed it to Jesse who told me not to worry about it (this is his reply to many, many things). Because I am who I am, I did worry which led me to do some research. The incessant crying. Getting between us and the door. The attachment. The bald spot on his leg. All of these together meant one thing--Nicky was suffering from separation anxiety.

Separation anxiety has long been noted in dogs and only recently has it been studied in cats. Separation anxiety that goes untreated for a long time will lead to health problems down the road. If the anxiety is really bad, cats are often prescribed antidepressants (so not joking) as treatment. The last thing I want to do is medicate Nicky. Like when I first sought treatment for anxiety, I want to treat Nicky's separation anxiety naturally and drug free. And the best way to do so is to get him a playmate.

As far as my own treatment, I did try the natural methods for treating anxiety. The breathing exercises. The meditation. I just couldn't focus when anxious so these didn't work for me. Although the drugs are effective for me, they don't work for everyone and sometimes I wish I didn't need to be on them. However, if getting Nicky another kitty to play with will keep him from going on kitty Xanax, then we'll do it.

The truth is that Dominick is very young. He was adopted at a young age and should've been adopted with another kitty. Jesse and I care about him too much to just let him go on like this. We can only see the physical manifestations of the anxiety. But I know what it feels like inside. And yes, maybe there's some projection going on. But if Nicky even feels 1/10 of what I feel on a regular basis, I would do anything to keep him from feeling that way.

So the search for Dominick's little buddy is on. And we're hoping this will be enough to make the anxiety go away.

*This is the third in a series of honest and personal posts about mental
illness. The series will culminate on April 16th, 2008, the one year
anniversary of the shootings at Virginia Tech.


Capitol Hill 20210 said...

Ohh, I can totally help you out with this. Rescue Remedy - I highly recommend it. I have to give it one of mine. It works wonders. Pheromones you can plug in as well really take the edge off. I am all about holistic approach of meds for animals and they seem to work very well. I am attaching some links to this post. If you have any questions at all, please let me know:


Anonymous said...

I take Rescue Remedy too! the human version I guess. Or maybe it is for both animals and humans. I totally agree with your decision to adopt another kitty. I adopted my two kittens together --this was 16 plus years ago and the girl kitty died just this past February :( -- from the DC Humane Society and I never felt guilty leaving them because they had each other to play with and stalk. ~Erika

lizzie said...

CH 20210--hmmm...i had heard about rescue remedy but i thought it was used mostly to help pets get through some kind of travel (which is definitely stressful on cats). thanks for the links! :) i will definitely read up on it.

Erika--There's a human version? I want some! :)

If I remember correctly, you recommended getting a second kitty a long time ago. So, we're finally acting on your advice. :) The thought of a second kitty had been on my mind for awhile and the separation anxiety was the straw that broke the camel's back, you know?

BTW, i'm sorry about your kitty. :(

Anonymous said...

yep-it's available at whole paycheck in the supplement section. it's helped me ~Erika

Anonymous said...

I've got to admit - I had no idea kitties had these issues. I know dogs did, but like you mentioned, all the kitties I had where always pretty independent. I had a dog once who had horrible separation anxiety and would lick and bite his paws, destroy books and magazines right in front of the door, and eat his leash when we left him. But, we got another dog and it totally solved the problem. So hopefully, another kittie will fix the issue so good luck on the kittie search!

Capitol Hill 20210 said...

yeah is also helps other things besides travel.......the bach flower is a wonderful thing - and its so much safer then kitty prozac and buspar. My one kitty was on buspar and I just didn't like doing that to her -- the bach flower helped. It also helps with aggressive kitties as well. Yeah a 2nd kitty would be really good.

Let me know if you have any more questions.

lizzie said...

erika: oh, whole paycheck? yeah, no wonder i didn't know about rescue remedy for people. :)

instatick: wow. poor puppy. that was some acting out. but glad that a new doggie helped the problem. and thank you for wishing me luck!

CH 20210: thank you so much. you are quite the good source of kitty knowledge.