During the week before last, three days after Mimi quit eating, she followed me to the studio in the evening and settled on a box on my work table. Nothing strange about that, except that she bypassed her favorite water bowl and did not groom and prepare herself for a nap as usual, just settled in a crouch on the box.
Immediately behind her were Mewsette and Jelly Bean who settled on either side of her and began vigorously bathing her head and face, then her back. After some minutes Bean got up on the box with her and for the next two hours his chest and belly were pressed up against her or he was simply draped over her while Mewsette curled next to them, solid and unmoving. I could hear Jelly Bean purring several feet away. I saw her curl herself into a more comfortable position as the time passed.
Of all the things that were clues to Mimi’s condition, this was the most frightening and convincing. It’s clear they all cuddle, they come back together with Mimi as if they were all in her belly again, or curled on the fleece bed as newborns, sleeping in a pile. But this was therapy. Mimi needed their energy.
I’ve seen each of them at this with other cats at certain points when they were ill or distressed. Usually it’s Jelly Bean with his composed serenity like a little Buddha and along with his enormous purr pulling a big soothing blanket over what is wrong, but the others have done their part to steady the elderly and calm the very young or ill.
This time it was Mimi, and that was different. Early into this I wasn’t sure what was wrong or how she felt, but was monitoring her and reporting to my veterinarian and others so we could piece together what was happening. That day was Thursday and she had not eaten since Monday night. She’d been vomiting regularly but had seemed otherwise normal and active, and it could have been a virus that would run its course with supportive care. That day she was subdued and now seemed headed toward lethargy, a condition which showed it might actually be an acute or chronic illness, or it was beginning to affect her internal processes.
Earlier in the day she had been on the rocker in my office and Sunshine had joined her there and bathed her, then Giuseppe, ending up cuddling her between them, though when they’d relaxed they kind of squeezed her out, much to her consternation. But I remembered they’d gone to her side then, and now this, twice in one day. Was something failing in her? Of all the things that had happened in the past three days that she had been vomiting and not eating this was the most alarming.
I decided I’d give her fluids, warmed them up and changed the needle, then decided to take her temperature first, 99.8, a little on the low side, but not alarming, but I called the emergency hospital to review things; the situation was borderline, yes, no. I took Mimi downstairs and spent some time in the kitchen with the carrier ready while she was crouching in the corner but she decided to get up and stretch and walk just ahead of me. In the bathroom, she would smell the baby food but not lick it. She licked a treat but didn’t eat it, but she was cruising around, leaning on my leg, looking at me, telling me not to worry. Drinking water, not much. She followed me back downstairs, then came back up a few minutes after me, jumped up on my drafting table and had a long drink of water.
I held off that night, but decided that if she did not eat the next day I needed to start some treatment. The next day I saw her curled in a ball with Mewsette curled around her. The next night was when I took her to the emergency clinic after talking to my veterinarian, and then the big guessing game began.
Mimi is relatively well today. She is still on prednisone, without which I’m sure she would not eat. She finally took a sip from the fountain today, but has not been drinking on her own otherwise. She is active and social and doesn’t seem to have any outright pain, but without the supports of medications, fluids and her reiki and acupuncture treatments she’d be one sick kitty, still. This week we begin some treatments and tests.
And I’m sure if she needs it again, her children will be there, ready to transfer their energy to her, and Bean to purr his therapy into her bones and tissues.
. . . . . . .
Smokie’s Purr Therapy for Trauma
Smokie is still subject to a traumatic reaction from certain noises and events. The garbage truck can groan and squeak its way down the street, motorcycles shift through gears on their way up the hill, or I can drop something on the floor and he is startled, but fine. But when the circumstance startles all the cats and they all noisily scatter, he is lost and quickly hides.
One evening one of the Four was walking around on the stack of boxes of merchandise and art in the center of my office. He lost his footing, slid partway down a cardboard box, then scrambled for footing to get back up. This sudden sound and the sense of the frantic scrambling startled everyone, and along with the sound of scrambling on the cardboard boxes was the sound of claws raking the floor to take off at a run up the steps, down the steps, across the room, behind the desk, wherever seemed safe. The scrambling only lasted 20 or 30 seconds, and everyone came back together and within minutes was back to their after dinner naps.
Except Smokie. He usually hangs around my desk when he’s not playing, or he generally hangs around me, but I hadn’t seen him since this happened. I could let him go to find his way back, but I had also seen his traumatic reaction in other circumstances and knew he might not actually do that, and he could regress into his traumatic state once again.
After searching with a flashlight and calling his name, which brought everyone into the act as they followed me, preceded me, and poked their noses into various places trying to be helpful, we finally found Smokie in the basement tucked into a very small and dark spot on top of the furnace, surrounded by ductwork. It was a good thing the flashlight caught his eyes—his fluffy fur does not reflect as does the others’ shorter fur.
I softly called him and offered treats and the others milled around helpfully, and eventually he did come out, come down to the floor and follow me upstairs. His eyes were like dinner plates and he was stiff with terror, but he ate a treat or two with the rest of them. I gently picked him up and took him upstairs, originally heading for the bathroom for a little one-on-one therapy, but went into my studio instead, setting him on my chair, petting him, and quietly working on a project. He was comfortable being near me, but even the occasional pets made him wary and I knew he would not be comfortable on my lap.
Very shortly after we arrived, Jelly Bean came in, purring loudly. He hopped up on my drafting table then stepped onto the chair where Smokie was reclining, bathing nervously, facing the back of the chair. Bean stood next to him, sat down, licked him and then stepped over him, settling himself down between Smokie and the chair back, bathing Smokie a little more, and Smokie wrapped himself around Bean who finally turned onto his side so he was belly to belly with Smokie, tucking his head into Smokie’s chest. No more bathing happened, but they just laid there like that, Smokie going rather limp and Bean constantly purring, for over an hour. Slowly they moved away from each other and curled for a nap, and slept for a while. Eventually Bean left. The terror had left Smokie’s eyes and it was as if nothing had happened.
Since then we’ve had other similar instances—this is a small house with lots of stuff, it’s just how it is—but Smokie’s reaction has never gone that far again. He’ll be frightened and run and hide, but he’s back out in minutes. Jelly Bean must have done some lasting good for him. That was one intense session of purr therapy. What a gift he has, and they all have.
For other examples of purr therapy among cats read “Friends at the End”.
. . . . . . .
For more information on Mimi’s condition and how this all started, read “Purring”, and the first update, “Feeling a Little Better” , “Another Update” and “Purr Therapy” about how Mimi’s children support her and others in illness.
Read more Essays on The Creative Cat.
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