Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The attention hog/cat - Basil

I'm not quite sure how I let it go this long without a post. I really did have things I wanted to write about, but we have been a little busy and preoccupied.

This is an old picture of Basil chillaxin'.
Our sweet cat is sleeping peacefully on her cat scratcher but has had a rough month. About two weeks ago, we brought her to the vet because we thought she might have a UTI. Thankfully (sort of) she doesn't but they said her "issues" are mostly a mystery. She needs some pretty serious dental work, which could be giving her pain or discomfort, but the vet didn't think it directly caused Basil's UTI like symptoms (peeing outside of the litter box). The vet seemed to think we could wait a little while to save up for the dental work.

Since our financial situation doesn't have room for the dental work prescribed, we honestly considered finding her a new home. This was not easy for me to accept, and thankfully it probably won't have to come to that (we found a cheaper vet in the area, but still need to save up). I started scowering the internet for good opinions on pet ownership and found many that I agreed with and could mold into our philosophy on the subject. Here is basically our conclusion:
We adopted Basil which meant that we were taking responsibility for her - a living animal. Just like any other animal, we have dominion over her and just like any other animal, she does not deserve injustice. For a domestic cat, that means she needs constant human care, and she can not be abandoned to fend for herself or neglected necessary treatment for disease or sickness. However, our responsibility to our family, financially and otherwise, will always come first. If we cannot give her the care she needs, we are still responsible for her, but our responsibility shifts to finding her another home that will do what we can't.
The last part is hard to accept because she has become part of the family, but not so hard to accept since it isn't shirking our responsibility for her. It is making sure she is still well cared for - just with someone else. But like I said, thankfully it probably won't have to come to that.

When the vet was going through her list of questions and things we might be doing wrong, she was baffled when we answered all the questions right. I found it a little frustration, but mostly funny. It gave me more confirmation that I'm pretty sure I know my cat like she was my child. From what I read, lots of adopted cats like Basil come with "baggage". I know that Basil has attention issues and is hyper sensitive to change because she was abandoned as a kitten. When these issues flair up, she always has UTI like symptoms, but this past episode was worse than before.

another old one from the "Honeymoon Cottage"
For whatever reason, these last few months have been full of small changes. I've gone back to babying her and it seems to be working. She comes around more often to do family things with Noah and I, so I end up talking to her almost as much as I talk to Noah when she is awake. We are still working to get her more comfortable with the recent changes, but I've found a few tricks that have worked in the past and seem to be working now. My side note is that not all cats are as difficult as Basil is, and some are worse. We both grew up in homes with multiple cats but they didn't need anything like Basil needs. Our suspicion is that part of this is because they had each other, and Basil only has us. We are her only play mates. So if you care to read on, here are the things I've learned about dealing with a sensitive kitty:

  • Talk, talk, talk, pet, pet, pet, treats, treats, treats. - Basil came out of the bedroom and looked up at me as I walked by her. Even though I had an inkling that she was asking for attention, I didn't give it to her. She re-payed me within 3 minutes by making me wash the bed linens. Okay, so this is totally not acceptable, but we moved a new couch in the day before and she was still on edge about it. She pees/sprays to mark her territory when she feels like her environment is threatened.
  • Find the right litter and pan style and stick with it. Basil likes the "World's Best Cat Litter." Go figure, it's not like it says it in the name or anything. When we switched the cat litter because it wasn't available at the place we were shopping, she did okay for a few days and then wouldn't use it until it was dumped out and refilled again (which we do  not have to do that often with "World's Best Cat Litter").
  • Get a scratching post and a few toys, designate an area for cat stuff, and leave it there. This will become a cats safe place and is "private" just like a bedroom. Even if other pieces of furniture move, if this can stay in the same place, it can make the transition easier.
  • Use Catnip for stress and nerves. We tried this last night on her scratching post and she loved it. It works for Basil like treats work for her. It is something that only she gets and shows her that we are paying attention. She was extremely well behaved after.
  • Use Feliway Spray for stress and to prevent stress when you introduce a new change, like a new piece of furniture or a rearrangement of furniture. This is an awesome spray that has friendly pheromones. Pheromones are found when a cat marks an area (by rubbing, peeing, or scratching). Basil doesn't have to mark things if this is sprayed and she generally behaves better.

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