All About Marie

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Animal Files columnist of the Orange County Register; Emmy Award winning producer of Educational Television Programming; Host of "The Pet Place Radio Show" heard world-wide at www.blogtalkradio.com/petplace; click the player below to listen. Producer/Director/Editor of "The Pet Place TV Show" during the 18 years it ran on KDOC TV in Los Angeles and Orange Counties; Wife, Mother of five kids, Grandmother of one baby boy, and pet parent of three cats, two dogs, and a cockatoo.

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Friday, May 2, 2014

Depressed Cat

Dear Marie,
We have had two cats (brothers) for the past 13 years. These two cats were inseparable. They groomed each other. Snuggled. Played together. Ate out of the same bowl. It was always so sweet. Recently, one of the boys got sick passed away in a very short amount of time. We were all so sad. But mostly, the remaining brother was heartbroken. It has been a month and he has little or no appetite. He sleeps most of the day and night. He never seems to perk up. Occasionally, he searches the house looking for his brother and makes the most mournful meow I’ve ever heard. He’s lost a significant amount of weight and I am really worried about him. I’ve taken him to the vet and he checks out fine physically. What can I do to keep him from wasting away?
Brenda,

Dear Brenda,
Your little boy is showing classic signs of depression. It’s no wonder considering what an extraordinary bond he had with his brother. Because his day-to-day life was so intricately tied to his brother’s, he has lost his spiritual routine. Sometimes, just as with people, animals who were very close in life to a special partner literally shut down their own existence as a result of the tremendous void and grief they are experiencing.

It is imperative that you direct him away from this path as soon as possible. In his case, I would suggest adopting an outgoing, playful, female kitten. It is essential not to get a male kitten - even though your cat had been so close to his brother - because a cat of the same gender may try to assert himself and not bond with your kitty.

A kitten will provide constant distraction. She will pounce on your boy’s tail. She’ll stalk him. She’ll annoy him every waking moment. He won’t have time to think about being depressed because he will have a perpetual nuisance buzzing around his head. Yet, as your new kitten matures, the relationship between the two will blossom. In time, she will begin to mellow and they will develop their own special bond.

Of course, you do need to follow standard introduction procedures before setting her free in the house. This means bringing her home in a closed cardboard cat carrier. Once in your home, set the box on the floor and let your old male cat come over at his own pace to check out the box. There will be sniffing and perhaps some growling and spitting. Don’t let that alarm you. Keep the box closed until your male loses interest. Once that phase is achieved, open the box, but do not take out the kitten. Let her come out on her own. Again, when the two see each other, there may be some tense moments. Let them work it out. Don’t worry;
they will.

In the beginning, feed the two cats in separate rooms. However, watch for signs of acceptance between the two. Eventually, you will be able to feed them together. Try not to rush the process. Every cat introduction is unique and has its own pace. Some cats immediately bond to new cats. Others take weeks and sometimes months. But, no matter how much time it takes for a bond to form, the simple presence of a new kitty will take your cat’s thoughts away from depression and that’s the goal.

Be sure to lavish a lot of affection on your boy during this process. He needs to know that he’s not being replaced. He should understand that the kitten is for him and not you. This means that temporarily, you should only pet and interact with the kitten when he’s not looking. Be sure to wash your hands after touching the new kitten to remove her scent.

These extra precautions are only temporary. Once your male has accepted her, you’ll be able to play with and pet both of them simultaneously. It will be just like old times. Best
wishes.

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