I took Shiva for her checkup a couple of days ago; the last time she was quiet as a mouse the entire visit…this time she was great until about a third of the way through the appointment. At that point her head began spinning around and sounds erupted from her that I’ve not ever heard from any living creature. Seriously- it was the stuff of The Exorcist.
I joke about Shiva a lot and put many humorous posts about her on Facebook, but in all honesty, Shiva is not an easy animal to live with. Her nicknames are Syble and Demonseed, in honor of her many disparate personalities; she is moody and sometimes aggressive, she has destroyed about $1000 worth of my clothing thanks to her Pica disease, she has manic periods where she cries and races around the house, and she’s destroyed the paint on our pretty bannister, running up and down it.
We went to our vet out of frustration, in all honestly feeling that if something doesn’t change that maybe Shiva would be better suited in another home. We don’t want to give up on her; I truly love her and take my responsibility to my animals to heart. However, where does it come to the point where our quality of life becomes just as important as that of a seven pound feline devil?
Dr. Claytor, our beloved vet of seventeen years, was understanding. She’s had Tortoiseshell cats before and has experienced what we’re facing. She said her first suggestion would be to allow Shiva some time outdoors, as Torties are avid hunters and she is obviously feeling frustrated being inside- no matter how much we play with her. She also suggested getting a male kitten so that she would have a pride to be the leader of. Neither of those options is feasible for our family; there is a large feral cat population around us and we feel she could easily get hurt or disappear- something we just couldn’t live with. Another cat is not something we want to have right now, feeling the balance of one dog and one cat works very well for us in our often busy, travel-filled lives.
I brought up a medication that a good friend uses with her Tortie who exhibited many of the same behaviors, Amitriptyline. Dr. Claytor was concerned and didn’t want to keep Shiva on it, but said we could give it a try and then gradually move to primarily giving her natural calming treats. I so wish I could have taken a photo as the vet administered the first dose to my wild-eyed feline; Shiva frothed at the mouth and truly looked like she’d been possessed by Linda Blair. Nightmarish.
Shiva is a tiny terror; at only seven pounds her dose is a sixth of a pill, a tiny chip that we either put in her daily cat lax or in a small piece of Pâté. Most days she has taken it easily and we are starting to see a positive difference in her behavior. Shiva is never going to be a cuddly cat (except at 3am when she stands on my chest in bed, wanting love), and that’s okay. We love her quirkiness; we just don’t want to be attacked or have our home and belongings damaged.
We feel hope that with a little help from the medicine Shiva can live peacefully in our home. We’ll keep working with her; Torties are complex animals that behave differently from any cat I’ve ever known. She is worth the effort, though…those rare sweet moments are priceless.