My human completely misunderstands me at times … although I do have to give her some credit for helping me to understand myself …
When my old human family threw me out in the snow it was a tough time for me. Us cats, as I’m sure you know, like our comfort and warmth. But for a while I found myself having to live outside in the snow … and I didn’t like it. I didn’t like it one bit; I was cold, hungry anunhappy. To give myself something to do, I used to wash myself; and wash myself lots. Again, I’m sure you know that us cats like to keep ourselves clean and looking good … but I think I went a little bit too far back then. I had nothing else to do you see and I was a bit paranoid about becoming dirty and smelling living outside. The best thing about it though was that my tongue was nice and warm when I washed it over my body … especially over my tummy. Mmmm … that warm, rough tongue felt wonderful caressing my tummy …. Mmmm ….
…. Oops … I got a bit side-tracked there remembering ….
Washing myself so much felt nice, and it was a bit of a (sorry, I now see) substitute for the loving stroking and petting that humans are so good at.
I discovered this photo (right) on my human’s laptop a few days ago, and I can now see how overboard I went with the washing … can you see all my baldy patches?! I was in a bit of a state when I moved in with her, wasn’t I?!
It’s from reading her books and listening in to some of these counselling sessions that she has though, that has helped me see why I became so obsessed with cleaning myself, and my tummy especially (my tummy is also the easiest place for me to reach with my tongue!).
In humans, I believe they call it ‘self-harm,’ and humans do things like cutting themselves with knives and razor blades, burning themselves, or starving themselves, doing too much exercise, drinking nasty stuff like bleach, and a whole lot of other things I don’t even want to think about. But ‘self-harm’ seems like a silly name for it for me. It’s not about hurting yourself … or at least, it wasn’t for me (although I have learned that some humans do do it to hurt themselves; sometimes as a ‘punishment’ for something bad they think they’ve done, or sometimes because they’re in so much emotional pain that they can’t bear it. And turning that emotional pain into a concrete, physical pain makes it easier for them to deal with. It’s a fascinating subject isn’t it? It’s not at all like what it seems initially).
For me, my ‘over-grooming’ (that’s what the odd people at this strange place [the ‘’vets’ she calls it] my human keeps taking me to in a cage, call it) was about trying to make myself feel better, a way of comforting myself when I was cold and lonely, a way of filling time when I had nothing or no one else to fill it with. Yes, I guess the results (the bald patches, the cuts, the burns, etc) aren’t nice, but the process of getting them is very comforting …
Anyway … once I’d decided to stay with my new human and knew that I’d like living in her house, I realised I didn’t need to keep washing myself so much. Her house was nice and warm, and there were lots of nice cosy places in which to sleep. She fed me well … it’s lovely … but don’t tell her I said that!!
But … I’d already learned that my bald patches, and especially my baldy tummy, caused her some concern. She kept looking at my tummy and asking me where all the fur had gone. She took me to the ‘vets’ a few times, and they kept looking at my tummy … I have to admit it was quite nice! I have a lovely tummy, and it’s nice to have people looking at it and admiring it! But it seemed to be causing my human a lot of worry. I know this, because she told everybody about it, and I kept hearing her say how she wished she knew what was causing it. She tried allsorts to try to make it grow back. She removed the cosy blankets she’d bought for me, thinking I was ‘allergic’ to them (whatever, ‘allergic’ means). She changed her washing powder, she kept changing my litter, which I wasn’t happy about (how would you like it, if someone kept changing your toilet?!), she changed my food, etc. etc. etc.
But how on earth did she think she could do anything to make the fur on my tummy grow back? I’m the only one who could decide to grow my fur back.
And I eventually began to feel sorry for her, after yet another visit to the vet and yet another discussion about my ongoing baldy tummy … why couldn’t they just leave it alone? Maybe I was happy with my baldy tummy? Don’t these humans, shave and wax a lot of their fur off? It has to be said that their fur is a sorry substitute for the luxurious fur of a cat, so I don’t blame them for wanting to get rid of theirs … but maybe I just wanted a nice fur free tummy?! But I could see that it was troubling my human, and I didn’t want to continue doing that to her … who knows where it would have ended.
She’d decided to try yet another thing to make my fur grow back … a ‘diffuser’ which plugs into the electricity socket and apparently works like one of these ‘plug-in air fresheners’ that humans use. But instead of freshening the air, it diffuses cat pheromones. I knew she’d feel good if she felt that she’d found the thing that caused my fur to grow back, so I thought it would be a good idea to stop over grooming my tummy once she plugged this thing in and let my fur begin to grow back.
I know it cost her a lot of money, and I know they don’t last long, so she has to keep buying refills for it, which I feel a bit sorry for her about, because she didn’t have to waste her money on it. But I also know she feels good, because she believes she’s solved my ‘problem’ and she’s so happy to see my fur beginning to grow back on my tummy.
Who knew that a furry tummy could cause so much pleasure …