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Our Himalayan Cats - Do Cats Have Nervous Breakdowns?
10th August 1996
The answer to that question is a definite YES. Redrum just had one.
We have new neighbours. Two young couples, builders, bought the ramshackle house next door. The first thing they did was tear down the fence and let their dog roam free. The day after they did this, Redrum went missing. She didn't come back at nighttime, couldn't be seen next morning, and finally reappeared the next night but she was terrified and had to be coaxed indoors. Her coat was rough and fur was falling out. She was lethargic, wouldn't eat, and she had lost a huge amount of weight. She had lost so much weight, you could feel all the bones in her body. She was scared and she tried to hide all the time. We kept her inside that night, and decided to lock her inside the house for a few days to see if that would perk her up.
Next morning, I picked up Ruffian and put her outside. No nervous breakdowns for that cat. She didn't care about any bloody dogs. She just bunched up and hissed and sliced for their eyes. No problems with her being outside. But I picked up Redrum to move her, and she wailed. I've never heard her make this sound before. She wailed. She must have assumed that she was going to be put outside after having watched Ruffian be shoved out. She was pretty weak, but she gave a bit of a struggle. I moved her onto the bed and left here there, and she lay there panting and looking at me with huge fright in her eyes.
After about four days of force-feeding her, she started eating again and got back a little of her joie de vivre and started to put back the weight. She was an indoors cat and she loved it. Before this she had been a very independent cat, always demanding to go outside at nighttime or early in the morning. Now she doesn't. She's much more loving too. She'll cuddle up at night, and she won't struggle to get away if you pick her up and give her a hug. So in that sense, it's been quite beneficial.
After two weeks, we decided she needed to go outside for short visits (meaning we were running out of kitty litter). We bought a cat leash, which turned out to be a ferret leash, but strapped it on her anyway, and took her for a walk outside. She wasn't too happy about this, but she had a wander and then wanted to come back inside. That wasn't too bad. But one afternoon, Anne put her on the leash and took her outside while Anne did some gardening. She tied Redrum to a tree. Next doors arrived home, and let the dog out and the dog went straight for Redrum.
Now to be fair to the dopey dog, it's not a bad dog. It's a lovely bitch, friendly, happy and playful. All it wanted to do was play. But Redrum saw the dog coming for her and she freaked out. Howls and writhing and thrashing on the leash. Anne ran over and picked her to protect her, and got badly scratched for her troubles. Redrum went back inside and had another nervous breakdown. A short one this time, only lasting a few days.
The damn fence stayed down for five weeks. After great negotiations between five neighbours, a new fencing arrangement was agreed upon, the fencers arrived and started work. The new neighbours, in the meantime, dug up all the concrete in their yard, cut down all the trees, removed some brick fences, ripped out the swimming pool, and basically flattened and bared their back yard. When there was only a small patch of fence left to be done, we were hit with the great storms of 31/8/96 and 1/9/96. The fencers couldn't finish the job, and the next door yard turned into a quagmire. Things are a bit drier now, and we hope that the fence can be finished so the cats can be safe and locked away.
When it's finished, the fence will be six foot tall all around the back yard, with gates adjoining the house. So they will be completely locked in, and dogs will be completely locked out. So they can go back to being the Lords of the Backyard, and we can settle down to peace and quiet again.
But now we know what a nervous breakdown is in a cat. It's a pain in the arse.