In the five years since Ivy the Wonder Cat’s adoption, most days I would think that Ivy is one of the coolest, calmest and most predictable cats on the planet, given her innate ability to stick to a schedule which includes 14 hours of sleep per day.
When I say stick to a schedule, I mean you can set your watch by her. God forbid if I should miss her 9:00 p.m. treat time or should slip by more than five minutes for her regularly scheduled feeding times. Let’s just say my extroverted cat is not terribly subtle and if I am ever late, her mild meow builds up to a full ambulance siren within a matter of minutes.
I often ask myself who is the trainer and who is the student?
With a cat whose routine is so deeply entrenched, we are fortunate that harmony is a two way street. She knows when it’s her humans’ bedtime and she doesn’t typically wail by the door. She seems to understand our work-from-home routine and keeps herself quietly entertained during business hours. And she doesn’t usually beg for food outside of her appointed meal times.
But with that strong sense of structure, a sensitivity to disruption may be part of the package deal. Every November and December, as the holiday decorations go up and our schedules stray from the normal routine, she does get a little discombobulated, but then again, don’t we all to some extent?
But what happens when you turn the entire routine upside down by moving?
When I brought Ivy home from her cat hotel and opened the crate door, she joyfully bolted out and started exploring and sniffing her new surroundings like a bloodhound. I imagine that she must have found some comfort and reassurance with the familiar scents of the former home, mixed in with the mysterious traces of scents from the pets and humans that formerly lived there.
She seemed pretty cool that first day, finding her litter box, food and water bowls and a comfy place to sleep easily enough. She even found a preferred place to perch and to supervise the bird, squirrel and chipmunk action in our yard. “This was too easy”, I thought to myself, waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Day #2 was a different story. She was wailing like an ambulance at everyone and everything. While on the one hand we expected some kind of reaction, we didn’t expect this degree of drama that would make a “Real Housewives” episode seem tame by comparison. She seemed inconsolable, no matter what we tried.
Our solution was to bring out the Feliway diffuser. It’s a gadget that looks like a Glade Plug-In but that radiates a calming, soothing pheromone solution to help cats relax in stressful situations. I have used these before as a temporary solution during the November-December “holiday disruption” period and appreciated how it seemed to keep stress levels at bay for her and for us.
Sure enough, a couple of diffusers in the house seemed to help her mellow out, at least to see us through the transition period and into a new routine. But it was a few days later that I started getting concerned.
At the risk of oversharing, amid my cat’s structure and predictability, a typical day means two #1s and one #2 in the litter box. On the day in question, she produced six little #1s. That wasn’t normal for her. When I Googled it, the consensus among pet experts was to have it checked out by a vet as it could be a sign of something more serious.
The moment I read that, parental guilt kicked in as I dreaded having to put her back in her crate and take her to a new vet, at a time when she was already stressed and trying to adjust to a new routine. But with her best interests (and health) at heart, first thing the next day, I was able to get her an appointment to have her checked out by a vet around lunch time.
After her appointment, the vet called me back, saying that Ivy appeared to be the picture of good health and was pleasantly responsive to the vet’s examination. Externally, she seemed fine. To rule out anything more serious, they needed a urine sample. They asked if they could keep her until she “went”, to which I agreed.
Four hours later, I called the vet for a status update only to find that she still hadn’t “gone” yet. Given how many times she had been “going” at home, I wasn’t surprised. Despite the uncertainty of the situation, the humour wasn’t lost on me when thinking of how many people were waiting for Ivy to pee before the close of business. As if she wasn’t under enough pressure already!
Fifteen minutes later they called to say she finally provided a sample, to which we all gleefully cheered… OK that just got weird.
They would send off her sample to the lab the following day and I should hear back from the vet once the lab results were in. For now, I could pick her up and bring her home.
When she got home, she dashed to the dinner bowl and then scurried away and proceeded to avoid me for the rest of the day, but I didn’t take it personally. Being a parent is a thankless job on occasion.
The next day was indeed the first “normal” day where we were all in the new routine. My partner and I were working from home while Ivy slept very contentedly on the couch behind me, which had a very similar vibe to how things were before the move.
The following day, the vet returned with the good news that her urine was “unremarkable” with no underlying conditions or concerns. Her conclusion was that Ivy was very sensitive to change, and the stress of the transition was the likely cause of her busy bladder. More importantly, she confirmed that there were no signs of emerging kidney issues.
Fortunately, by that point, Ivy was already back to her usual daytime sleeping schedule and her litter box usage was indeed returning to normal. She was finally starting to adjust.
In the days that followed, even Ivy’s personality returned to normal, resuming her duties as hall monitor and time keeper, never letting me miss a scheduled activity by more than a few minutes. She also took great joy in the new sights, sounds and scents of our country property, given the exuberant wag of her tail in watching Mother Nature at work from the comfort of her new windows.
As someone who naturally gravitates to order and structure, I can’t say it came as a huge shock to see how she reacted. With so many variables at play, any move can present its share of unexpected situations to knock us humans off balance. If it can be stressful to us, why wouldn’t it be for our pets who might not understand how or why things have suddenly changed so much.
All we can do is to be present for our pets, to be patient, to reassure them that we are still there for them, and to consult with our veterinary experts at the sign of inconsistencies in behaviour or appetite.
Soon enough, a new routine will emerge and things will be right with the universe again.
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