Archive for December, 2012

wrappedaroundtheradiatorWhen I last blogged, Hannah and Sam had come together. Unfortunately, in the days that followed, all that went to pieces. Sam began to get aggressive with Hannah several times a day, and they started fighting a lot, so that I actually consulted with an animal behavioral expert at the Animal Rescue League of Boston where I volunteer. Although I help answer calls that come in to the behavioral helpline, now I was the one in need of advice.

And I got some great instructions on separation and rewards, which I put into place. But what turned out to be the real culprit was a physical issue: feline constipation. For the past year or so, Hannah has been the one with that notorious problem so it took me a long while, through a process of elimination (pun not intended but it does seem to apply here!), to figure out that it wasn’t Hannah but Sam, who, quite the contrary, has always had a reputation for stink-bombing the garret with his litter box deposits.

DSCN0987I began to notice Sam crying intermittently before using the litter box, but it wasn’t unusual for him to cry for attention when I wasn’t in the same room, so at first I’d passed it off as nothing. But the tiny slivers of stool continued to diminish in size and got lost in the piles of litter amidst the regular-sized Metamucil-induced poop, so I began to give Sam a dose of Hannah’s daily teaspoon of fiber, then discontinued his portion after a couple of days, in order to track whose poop was whose. And it turned out to be Sam. At times I question my own anxiety due to having PTSD; I ask myself “is this a real problem, or am I making a big deal out of nothing?” But still I worried about Sam.

It wasn’t nothing. In fact, it may be a medical issue – when I talked with the vet (oh the joys of discussing the size, shape and consistency of feline poop at length, along with the signs and symptoms of feline penile blockage), he said it’s unusual for a two year old cat to have constipation, so I’m giving Sam a half teaspoon of Metamucil daily for the next two weeks. If the situation doesn’t clear up, I’ll need to bring him in for an exam, a trip I know Sam desperately wants to avoid. For now, however, the Metamucil seems to be doing some good. There is more poop in the litter box, and more in the garret than ever. I’ve been finding poop in the hallway and on the carpet. At least Hannah and Sam have been getting along better.

IMG_0878On an altogether different note, Wordpress has sent me this blog’s “Year in Review,” in part: “600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 2,100 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 4 years to get that many views.” For whatever that’s worth….

In 2012, readers viewed this blog from 44 countries. The most popular post was (embarrassingly for me) “Cats & My Coccyx“!

Wishing you all a happy and healthy 2013, and thanks for your continued readership throughout the year!




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card2Looking at this recent photo of Hannah with her little brother Sam, one might not realize that Hannah came to me traumatized, at the age of three, after living in an abusive home. When we first met, just a couple of years after I was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), she was, like me, very fearful of closeness: she’d let me pet her but only in her kitty bed in the far corner of my apartment. She hid from visitors. Eating with her back turned was dangerous. I’d never allow her on my bed. Safety, in both our eyes, was never a given.

When I adopted Sam, he taught Hannah about companionship. Hannah wasn’t all for it at the time. She expressed such hateful guttural sounds, noises I’d never before heard from her; her reaction caused adrenaline to rush through me, triggered my PTSD. This was the difficult path to recovering from traumatic experiences of the past.

card1It’s been nine years since I was first diagnosed with PTSD. In that time, I’ve gone through a great deal of therapy and recovery. Hannah has, in many ways, reflected the changes I’ve undergone in healing.

A couple of months ago, I caught Hannah and Sam sleeping on my bed, their bodies comfortably touching. Hannah had never allowed Sam to be that close. I convinced myself she was doing it not for love but for warmth, survival: the weather had turned cold and the garret heat was not on.

When I showed a friend a photograph I’d taken of Hannah and Sam together on my bed, he pointed to the cat who was opening herself up with her extended paw: he thought that cat was Sam. I had to remind him that the calico was Hannah.

One night, after I’d come home from a long day of teaching, Hannah climbed up beside me on the garret chaise. She sat up tall for several minutes, 12gazing at me until I began to feel self-conscious. When I looked back at her, she stretched her front paws onto the rim of the chaise, stood, and lifted her forehead to mine, pushing at me affectionately. Then she sat down, curled up against my leg, and placed her paws on top of my fingers. There she stayed, purring for an hour.

At first, I thought something must be wrong, that she was sick. Was her autoimmune disease flaring up with a vengeance? Perhaps, I thought, she knew she was dying. No. She was simply being her true self, an inherent self I’d never seen behaving so openly and expressively, seeking and enjoying connection.

Once emotionally shutdown and timid, Hannah now displays a full range of behaviors. She is, I think, finally living a fulfilling, whole feline life. Curling up beside me on the chaise has become an evening ritual. So has play-fighting with Sam around the portable radiator she once put as a barrier between her and her brother (the “fighting” then progresses to a “cat-and-mouse” chase, or Hannah tackling Sam in a wrestling match). A few minutes later, they’re sleeping. In the past, I’d have run from this beautiful, sweet life playing out in front of me. Not anymore.


cs-gy-88x31{Writer’s note: I’m very honored and happy to announce that my memoir Notes on Proper Usage, has been selected for the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund Literary Award. Notes on Proper Usage is a memoir about my relationship with my late writer-editor mother, in which Hannah and Sam have cameo appearances.}

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