Monday, March 20, 2017

If A Cat Is Anxious In The Forest...?

I have really had a good run lately with some audiobooks, and my latest one I LOVED.

If you are a fan of Oliver Sacks, you will love this book - the author is the Oliver Sacks of animals.

He is a veterinarian and research scientist at Tufts, who has studied complex neurological and psychological disorders in pets and livestock.

It's not surprising to me at all that animals suffer many of the same ailments we do - notably, some obsessive-compulsive disorders, as well as things like depression. I've had animals all my life, and befriended many wild critters and tamed many feral cats and have observed many behaviors that animals share with humans. I'm not sure why the scientific community was so resistant to this man's research, but I can only conclude that they are unfortunate souls who have never spent time around any other mammals.

My kitties - Maddie and Splotchy - both suffer from FHS - Feline Hyperesthesia. It's more pronounced in Splotchy - Maddie has a milder case. Siamese are very prone to this disorder, and this, and lots of other things we see in these two, lead us to believe there's definitely a Siamese in this kitty woodpile. Frequent attempts by Splotchy to speak English are one of the other indicators.

With hyperesthesia, your cat can be sitting still, and all of the sudden their skin will ripple all over their body - and they will jump and run like they are literally trying to get out of their skin. It can happen to Splotchy even during sleep. It completely freaks him out, and us too. He's clearly miserable during the attacks, and unsettled afterwards. It's nothing like the normal crazy brain that cats get when they run around like nutballs.

There are some things you can do to help, but there's not really a cure for it. In Maddie, it manifests through obsessive-compulsive grooming of the tip of her tail, and also of Splotchy's ears. We have to intervene so she doesn't hurt herself  - when she was younger, the tip of her tail was nearly bald - it was ridiculous.

He describes in the book in great detail how obsessive compulsions work - in people and in animals, and what you need to know about them in both cases is that the compulsion part of the disorders are almost always rooted in a necessary behavior. For example, in humans - that might be handwashing. Washing your hands is a healthy compulsion - just not 300 times a day - that's an obsession. In animals - grooming. Cats are constantly grooming as self defense - any trace of food on their coats can make them vulnerable to predation. When something breaks - sometimes on a defective chromosome, or sometimes after a traumatic event, just like people - that compulsion becomes an obsession, and they can't stop.

He describes experiments with the drugs that treat these disorders in people with affected animals, and was pooh-poohed by many scientists and vets, until it worked. He has many patents now on drugs to treat things like cribbing in horses, obsessive nighttime howling in cats, tail-chasing which is common in bullies, and obsessive licking disorders and collecting disorders (apparently common in Dobermans) in dogs with drugs similar to Prozac, Xanax, beta-blockers, etc.

It's an absolutely fantastic read. So many animals are euthanized because people don't understand where their animal's behavior is coming from. People take people to the doctor. People take animals to the pound. Jackson Galaxy has said this for a long time - and this author does too. If your animal is "misbehaving" - take them to a vet.

If you love animals - you will love this book. Five stars from me.

Speaking of love of animals, my grandmother loved elephants. She collected elephant sculptures and art from her worldwide travels with my grandfather, who worked on drinking water systems for the Department of the Navy. We have a great photo of them with an elephant. My grandfather was someone who understood animals and treated them like people, too. He had a pet flying squirrel that lived in the woods behind his Maryland home. My mom grew up with a raccoon as a pet - and FYI, raccoons love Nilla Wafers. Much to the raccoon's chagrin, he would go to wash them in water, and they would dissolve. I think he eventually learned not to wash them.

I earned the Stampin' Up! trip to Thailand - and don't freak out about this - I'm not going. I've been to Australia, and that was most definitely the longest flight I'll ever be on - and the Thailand trip is ten hours longer. There aren't enough medications in the world to help me get through that. I wish I could send one of you in my place!

But I am looking forward to seeing everyone's photos - ESPECIALLY from the elephant sanctuary they are going to. I love these beasties - they seem other-worldly to me. Just fantastic and strange.

Every Sunday I do a Facebook live with my team - I let them pick a stamp or a technique they want to see, or I make the projects from my most recent class. I didn't have a class this weekend, so I showed a cheater tip for lining up Baby Bear, and then did some MISTI tricks with Lucky Elephant.

I LOVE this stamp image.

On the call, I showed how to stamp the image in Flirty Flamingo, but cleaning the jhool (that is the cloth on the elephant's back) off with the Absorber before stamping. I stamped several times to get the inking perfect. Then you go back with Tangelo Twist on the jhool, and stamp that several times.

After we got off the call, I decided to shade the elephant with pencils (colors linked below) and a black pen. Now he's REALLY spectacular.

And PS - because everyone always asks me about this - I've linked my favorite precision eraser and fave pencil sharpener below. I LOVE both of these.

I think my grandmother would like him. :)

If you want to join us all on Sundays - our awesome starter bundle is still at an amazing price - up to $200 worth of whatever you want for $99 - no selling required, no strings attached :). Join us here



  1. This elephant is super spectacular!

  2. Hahahaha I figured that's what the green thing was. LOL!!! LOVE your awesome shading and outlining with the black. Gorgeous!!

  3. Wow that turned out superbly!!!! I love that - don't wash the nilla wafers!!!!! I get the long flight thing. Our longest was 21 or 23 hrs. I think I blocked it out on purpose. I don't even do one hour time changes. I feel for your kitties!

  4. This is absolutely gorgeous! I played with this stamp set over the weekend, but my project looks nothing like this. LOVE IT!

  5. We had a raccoon growing up! He lived in the peach tree in the back yard. I converted a lot of our home movies to DVD and enjoy watching the menagerie of animals my father brought home. Your elephant in beautiful.

  6. Your elephant is gorgeous! I really love your pencil work. Hmmmmm.....very interesting about the Feline Hyperesthesia. Storm jumps up for seemingly no reason, runs around and hollers as if something is trying to kill her. It's disturbing. I have noticed that the back of her legs look like they have been groomed to the skin. She's recently been to the vet for something that the vet says she's never seen in a cat. The vet even consulted with another vet in FL who treats only felines and she's never heard of it either. Ah, the mysteries!

  7. Lydia, you are full of wonderful tidbits. I enjoy your blog. I feel I have learned something as well as enjoyed a beautiful card you've made. Thank you for sharing. My daughter I'd an elephant lover like your grandmother. I am making her a wall hanging with colorful bits of fabric appliqued onto an ombre background. It's quite artsy and she is going to love it.


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