Warning: if you have anxiety or depression, this post could be triggering.
(But nobody dies, I promise. ;))
At the risk of sounding like one of *those* crazy cat ladies, this here is my baby:
My cat Lily spends all day, every day, within five feet of me - and actually ON me most of the time, since she sleeps in my lap while I work.
(Or plays with my hair in my lap while I attempt to work.)
Lily sits beside me while I eat. She lounges on my treadmill desk while I walk.
She begs to be picked up and carried everywhere in-between, and has even figured out how to balance in my lap while I'm balancing on an exercise ball.
Like I said: my baby.
We got Lily from a rescue when she was a kitten, and for the last 9 years or so she's had no major health issues or behavioral problems.
Her "scrawny" phase lasted about three years.
That's a pretty common problem with cats, particularly older ones, but for nearly a year now this "common problem" has been a huge challenge. We've been to vet after vet, spent hundreds to possibly thousands of dollars, tried treatment after treatment... all to no avail. In fact, Lily's worse now than ever.
Though you'd never know it to look at her.
Calming supplements like Bach Pet Rescue Remedy have the opposite effect, as does kitty Valium - which leaves her wide-eyed, spastic, and drunkenly uncoordinated - a dangerous combo. The $90 bottle of allergy meds seemed to work for a few months, but then she got a lot worse. The steroids made her more edgy. She couldn't keep the Prozac down at all, and the trauma of trying to force it on her for so many weeks made us both anxious wrecks.
We've changed to expensive hypo-allergenic food. Twice. We've paid for every test the vet can think of. We've tried special swaddling shirts, plug-in pheremones, and increased play therapy. Eventually, when Lily's self-mutilation was leaving bloody streaks down her side and legs, we resorted to inflatable cones and baby onesies.
Here she is about 10 minutes after trying on her first onesie:
Needless to say, she's taken to it surprisingly well.
To be fair, most of the time Lily is an incredibly happy cat. She runs, plays, and purrs like the Enterprise bridge when she gets chin scratches or a warm lap.
Where there's a will, there is play.
One of her favorite games: catch the tail:
Sometimes she'd go for up to a week without any issues, only to relapse in the space of an hour by chewing through an old sore patch or starting a new one.
But lately, as we've stepped up our efforts to get her one bad spot on her side to heal completely, things have gotten worse. We've kept her in a new onesie full-time the last few days, which seems to be much less traumatic than the cone, but it still frustrates her grooming urge:
Granted, she doesn't look terribly frustrated when napping on my arm.
(If you're wondering: I'm pretty sure that didn't help.)
Then I had a good cry.
Then I started writing this post.
Everyone who meets Lily says she's the calmest, happiest cat they've ever seen, but inside, she's a little broken. She's anxious for no reason. She gets stuck in these mental ruts that she can't get out of, even though they're making her hurt herself.
And I realized, after I yelled myself hoarse, and as I struggled to accept that I can't make everything right, no matter how hard I try - I realized: Lily is my baby. She's just like me. We're both a little broken. We both get anxious for no reason, even though people say we shouldn't, or don't seem it, and neither of us can just stop because it's hurting us. (Also, we both kind of hate it when I have to leave the house. Heh.)
There's no happy ending to this post, though. That realization doesn't make it better. But it did remind me that love is messy, and caring for someone you love - even someone as "insignificant" as your cat - can be extra messy. (For the record: I have no idea how you parents do it. None.)
So I'm going to put Lily in a fresh onesie and brush out her fur, and I'm going to finish this latest round of steroids, and then we're going back to the vet for another form of Prozac, and we're going to keep trying. As long as she can still purr, and as long as her happy moments outweigh the bad ones - and as long as we have each other to hang onto through them - we're going to keep trying.
I can't tell her that, in so many words, so I'm telling all of you.
Lily's in my lap right now, and as I was trying to figure out how to end this post she started purring and kneading my arm. Here, I'll take a picture:
Ok, so maybe she does know.
Here's to messy love, my friends.