Friday, January 2, 2015

When your pets suffer from mental illness

We have a cat named George who is very special. And by "special" I don't mean unique and wonderful and precious so much as "should be in some sort of feline assisted living facility."

Everyone in the house agrees that George has a problem, but none of us agree on his diagnosis. One daughter thinks he has obsessive-compulsive disorder, while another believes he may be autistic. I can't say exactly where he falls on the spectrum, though I know something is not right with George.

For one thing, he's pretty slow on the uptake, at least in relation to our other three cats. This doesn't make him any less valuable or less lovable; in fact, it makes him far more entertaining to us.

I actually have a long history of pets with mental illness. Growing up, we had a dog named Bootsie (Or was it "Bootsy" like Bootsy Collins? I don't think there was ever an official ruling on the spelling of her name.) Bootsie/Bootsy had a big knot on top of her head, which my dad believed was some sort of brain growth that made her...different.

Later on, I owned a hamster whom I called Ariel who had extreme anger issues. She seemed pretty lovable in the store, but once I got her home, it was nothing but teeth and rage with that little rodent.

I made the mistake of placing Ariel's cage next to the fiberglass/nylon curtains my mom had sewn for my room. She (the hamster, not my mom) managed to reach through the bars and gather in some of the curtain material, which she proceeded to eat in great chunks. I'm guessing the resulting chemical poisoning did nothing to improve her mood swings.

Nowadays we own two chinchillas, both of whom I think are strange, but I'm coming to believe that's just how chinchillas are and that our two are pretty average, as chinchillas go.

Sometimes, your pets' mental issues can work to your advantage. Our cat Fred is a great example. Fred's problem is that he is obsessed. Specifically, he is obsessed with me. Fred loves me. He sleeps virtually on top of me every night, which keeps me warm. I love having Fred in bed with me. He's like a big, fat, loudly purring electric blanket. When he dies, I'll be sad.

And cold.

Sometimes crazy/obsessive is good.

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