Houdini's Mental Health

 

The beginning

Over the years I had fostered several cats, all from a local no-kill shelter. I liked having a cat around the house, knowing I was saving its life and it would hopefully be adopted, someday, by a loving family but that I wouldn’t always be responsible for it. Almost like I didn’t want to fully commit myself to owning a cat but I was certainly happy doing 6-8 months out of the year. During this time there were several times I was nearly a foster “failure” meaning that I almost ended up adopting the cat that I fostered during that time period but it always decided against it.

Then I moved to Massachusetts and actually went to a no-kill shelter with the intent to adopt a cat. Things were a little different at this stage of my life. I hadn’t fostered for awhile and I now worked from home, and I was getting lonely being on my own all the time. Not that a cat would really make that much better as they tend to be pretty reclusive anyway but I liked the idea of having a fur-ball around the house to keep me company during the day.

Anyway, so I had arrived at a no-kill shelter in the area with the intent to adopt a cat but specifically looking at kittens. I hadn’t had a kitten before, at least, not on my own and that’s where I met Eboni. She was the only kitten left at the shelter and her brother had just been adopted the day before so she was pretty fussy and seemed really eager to get out of the cage. I don’t really know what it was but I was immediately attached to her and didn’t need to see any other cats. I wasn’t worried with what else they had. I wanted this cat and I already knew what I’d call her - Houdini. I had that name as an option in my mind from the start but for some reason it felt more fitting for her as she was a black kitty. The problem is, many people associated the name Houdini with males but dang it, I’m allowed to do what I want.

The panic, but no disco

Houdini was a great, healthy cat with a sweet demeanor (which hasn’t changed) but that all changed one day when she decided to get a little adventurous. I was out of the apartment that day and I had a gas stove at the time. She apparently decided to jump up onto the stove and in the attempt she managed to turn the gas on. Not the flame mind you, just the gas and it began to leak into the apartment for the next several hours while I was out.

Thankfully, one of my neighbors walked by the apartment (interior corridor apartments) and could smell the gas. He knocked on the door a few times but ultimately called the fire department which also tried knocking but obviously, I wasn’t home. I imagine by this point Houdini was already stressed at all the knocking because it always bothered her but I can’t imagine how scared she must have been when they broke down the door to get in and turn off the gas. I soon received a phone call from the land lord about the incident and I went home immediately as the fire department couldn’t leave until I arrived. Upon arriving I just wanted to know if Houdini was okay but they said they hadn’t seen any cat in the apartment… I was really worried but she ended up being okay, just scared under the bed.

That was the moment that she went from a little jumpy at times, to full on panic when someone would knock on the door or come into the house that she wasn’t familiar with.

Where we are now

Fast forward 2 years later and Houdini’s stress / anxiety seems to be getting worse. Since my move back to Virginia a little over a year ago she’s started licking and biting out her fur. Initially I changed her diet several times, tried playing with her more frequently, and introduce pheromones into the house to calm her but nothing has really worked. There has been a lot of change for her and she’s struggled to adjust to it. Now she’s on anxiety medication and I’m hoping this really does make the difference for her moving forward.

She did also have some blood work done to rule out other possibilities but it all came back negative, which I’m grateful for.

Houdini has been on medication now for roughly three weeks and I’ve opt’d to roll her pill into a bacon paste and put it in her wet food. That’s basically the only way she’ll eat it now. Originally I would force feed it to her but she strongly disliked me for several days and I felt terrible so I needed another option so I don’t damage the relationship I have with her. I tried pill pockets but she’s not having it and Prozac is too bitter to crush up on its own and put into wet food. At first, when getting the bacon paste, she would eat it on its own but after a few days she wanted nothing to do with it. I’m still worried everyday that she’ll decide not to take it but so far, so good.

Progress

From what I’ve been told it takes roughly 4 weeks to really start seeing the benefits of Prozac, so we’re not quite there yet. I do notice that she’s pretty lethargic at times but she doesn’t seem to have any other negative side effects. I am happy to report that since I’m no longer giving it to her by force she’s back to cuddling with me frequently. She’s become a bit of a bed dwelling cat recently which is unusual for her. Normally during the day she likes to sleep in the cat tree or the windows but right now she prefers to be on the bed all day long and then sleeps there all night. Her sleeping in the bed isn’t unusual though, she has always slept next to me most nights. I’m guessing it’s just her preferring a different spot for now as cats seem to take to new locations from time to time for their relaxation. I’m sure before too long she’ll be back to lying in the window or in the cat trees around the house.