Notes to Self

Thoughts on psychology, spirituality and soft skill development for personal improvement


Cat Care, Depression

Oh poor Alley! Leslie, you aren't supposed to bathe a cat. (I know you know this but let's look into it more). When you bathe a cat, they lose an important part of their personal identity, their body odour - cats identify each other through their body odour (I know, sounds gross - imagine if we humans had to sniff each other for recognition!).

It's quite disconcerting to a cat (apart from the confusing feelings of insecurity wondering why their pets - you - are torturing him / her), and more so if there are other cats in the house too (they won't recognize him / her and be wary).

It's even worse if you use scented soaps or shampoos because then it would take more than a month or more for the cat to regain its natural body odour.

Hiding somewhere, and being jittery are all signs of insecurity. And when cats are insecure / depressed, grooming themselves is a low priority. Apart from the bathing incident (shocking! :) you seem to be doing a great job for Alley to have adjusted herself to her environment. Here are some tips (you may or may not be aware of):

A change of environment is extremely stressful to a cat, so if you move from place to place expect your cat to be jittery and nervous often. Cats also feel quite vulnerable when they are in the loo (so to speak :), when they are eating and when sleeping because these are the moments when they let their guard down and thus feel that anybody can sneak up on them and attack them. Be a cat-body guard when they are doing these and you can make any cat feel quite secure and happy with you. In fact, if you just allow cats to sleep with you in your bed, give them attention and play with them, and be around them when you feed them, they'll love you forever.

Coming back to bathing a cat, one easy and safe (for both you and your cat) way of doing this, is to catch hold of the cat immediately after it has had its food, wet your palm and then pet it. Your palm shouldn't be dripping with water, but just be damp enough to wet the cat. The cat will start squirming but hold firm and pet and wet their whole body. The idea is to just wet their fur and not their body (that's when they start howling). Once done, leave them alone. They'll give you a glare and maybe some irritated meows and then start grooming themselves. It's best to do this after they've had their meal because they'll be in a better mood and more importantly, cats groom themselves after every meal. In effect, you are just pushing the cat to groom themselves more thoroughly.


In case you are wondering, "where's the staple psychology-self-help-sometimes-insightful-thought that I expect from this blog", it's in Leslie's cat's experience -

If you read Leslie's blog post about Alley, she describes how Alley bounced back and seemed to be in a better mood after the bath. Here's why - depression and anxiety sap our will power to do even ordinary day to day things. And that's why depressed individuals appear slack on personal hygiene - sometimes they just can't bring themselves to shower and groom themselves.

Often, depressed (or even otherwise not depressed) individuals generally wait for motivation to come to start doing something. It may not seem very obvious, but the truth is action is the fuel for motivation and so to feel motivated you need start your act and do things - even if it is something as simple as having a shower.

In Alley's case, Leslie bathing him cheered him because he started grooming himself immediately after the bath (cats do that - they don't feel clean unless they've licked themselves), which he had neglected for sometime. Leslie's action, however horrible Alley felt through it also was reassuring because he must have recognized it was out of concern for him.

And that's the two important secret to fighting mild to moderate depression - have a good meal and start doing things, and start socializing. It may not cure the depression completely, but you'll certainly be in a better position to deal with it. (For serious depression, you definitely NEED to meet a psychologist / psychiatrist).