Of course when the Cats Protection media team contacted me asking me to tweet some content for their new Eight Precious Weeks Campaign, I immediately considered how I could create a blog post from the subject! I mean, it’s no great secret that I have a lot more followers on I’m NOT Disordered than my public Twitter account, and it’s a campaign I’m passionate about, so I think it’s deserving of so much more publicity and attention! So here’s a piece about my experiences with kittens, peppered with a few photos, links, and mental health tips…
The first kitten I had was when I was at Middle School and I’d finally managed to convince my Mum to agree to getting a cat! Having spent the majority of my childhood having Hamsters – and on one occasion a Gerbil – my Mum explained that owning a cat would be a much larger commitment and far more high maintenance.
Things to consider before getting a kitten:
1. Financial implications e.g. cost of maintenance, vet bills etc.
2. Spacial awareness e.g. having a safe haven for the kitten and for the litter tray etc.
3. Other family members – making introductions with small children and other pets etc.
4. Determining where to get the kitten from e.g. breeder or adoption centre
5. Researching the needs and qualities where the kitten is a specific breed
Cats Protection’s Guide to Brining a New Kitten Home:
Making a decision can be a hugely challenging instance – whether that be in deciding to add a little ball of fur to the family and home, or deciding to seek help if you’re feeling unsafe. I mean, the word ‘indecisive’ exists for a reason!
Personally, I actually think I’m really balanced on this aspect because there are some scenarios where I will put a lot of thought, planning, and preparation into making a decision, and instances where I just go for it and think ‘life’s too short.’
I very rarely face a heart vs head debate with one disagreeing with the other and me feeling pulled in both opposing directions. I think that this is largely because through my mental health recovery, I’ve found the ability and the attraction to keeping the two in tune with each other. I think that having experienced the two have the most monumental disagreement when my heart wanted to die, but my head – my instincts – told me to fight for survival. To fight for my life. To do anything I could to keep myself alive. And that disagreement? It changed my life in so many ways; for the better, and for worse. And so now, my head and my heart are aligned and my decision-making is balanced and still continues to steadily improve.
How to cope with decision-making:
1. Create a list of pros and cons – simple but effective
2. Consider what you would advise someone else
3. Remember your wellbeing is paramount
4. Talk it through with an outside party who have no involvement in your response
5. Allow yourself a breath and a break from it (where appropriate)
I remember Mum finding out about a cat that had just given birth and we went to a house not very far away to see the kittens who were only a few weeks old. At the time, I don’t think I really understood why we couldn’t just take one home right there and then! But the lady who owned the cat, was very aware that they couldn’t leave their Mum that early, and even when they were over eight weeks, she didn’t want us to take the kitten we’d chosen home until she was eating properly. So we visited her every week until she was ours!
What to ask a breeder:
1. Has the kitten had any medical treatments? E.g. neuter, microchip, worm and flea etc.
2. Can you see the kitten with its mother?
3. Is the kitten socialised?
4. What date was the kitten born?
5. Has the kitten interacted with other pets or children already?
Cats Protection’s Guide to Buying a Kitten:
I think that as with a lot of things in life, your first experience of something can really shape your thoughts and feelings on any similar instances in the future. Kind of like interacting with a particular professional and knowing full well that is just one person of the profession or of the organisation, but they somehow represent the rest. And so their attitude and behaviours affect your thoughts and opinions and reflect upon all those other people.
So, having had such a positive, intelligible experience in adding the kitten we later called Saffy to our family, really set my expectations high when it came time for me to buy my little tabby Maine Coon when I moved into my own home in 2014.
By then, though I had heard of pets4homes and so I used that site to find my lovely, fluffy Dolly with her ‘manicured’ paws (she had little white tips to each paw)! In all honesty, I don’t know that I put too much thought into getting her – but in a good way! I mean, in a way that I definitely don’t regret! I think it was just that I’d been in a psychiatric hospital for over two years and getting my own home with my own cat just seemed like the natural, almost automatic next step upon my discharge from there.
Five tips to looking after your kitten:
1. Ensure all health requirements are taken care of e.g. flea and worm treatment etc.
2. Keep them indoors until they are neutered
3. Monitor behavioural issues and consider the influences upon them
4. Ensure the kitten is fully weaned
5. Remember their passion for curiosity against their fragile little bodies
Cats Protection’s Guide to Kitten Care:
Owning Dolly for four years, I experienced so many benefits and positives from it, but I think one of the biggest was learning a lot more about responsibility – and what it feels like in particular. I mean, over the years in the hospital I’d been taught about the importance of taking responsibility for your own behaviours, because - I’m ashamed to say – that was something I really didn’t used to do. I would always be looking to others like “he said this, so that’s why I self-harmed.”
But learning about something and actually experiencing it, are two completely different things! Two things which are equally helpful and which… well, can you fully do one without the other? So whilst, on getting Dolly, I was aware that taking responsibility was a good, healthy thing, I hadn’t really put it into practice other than with my own mental health. And I think that taking responsibility for another life – whether that be human or not! – is a hugely special experience that is truly life-changing. This, was something I felt with taking care of Dolly.
Coping with responsibility:
1. Don’t risk your own wellbeing
2. Stay as organised as possible and avoid procrastinating
3. Don’t be afraid to delegate
4. Allow yourself ‘me time’
5. Talk to someone if it’s becoming overwhelming
Whilst Dolly was still quite young, there was a massive miscommunication and some Police Officers caved the backdoor in to my house and Dolly was home alone. When I finally came home, she was shaking in the wardrobe and had wet my bed. Over the following year, Dolly’s behaviour and demeanour totally changed and she wasn’t the cute, curious little fluff ball that she’d been when I first got her. She was vicious and hostile to the point where my Support Workers were no longer able to come into my home and even my best-friends were put off too. I called the Vets and their Behaviour Therapist came out to do an assessment on Dolly.
Her belief was that Dolly was always ‘on edge.’ That she always seemed ready to have to protect herself. It was massively upsetting because I knew as well as anyone that having a safe place – having a loving home – is so important; and the thought of Dolly not having that? Well, it almost broke my heart. So when the Therapist made recommendations, I eagerly followed them.
Then, finally, Dolly scratched my face. Drew blood. And I rang the Vets hysterically crying, to be told that there was one last way to help her, but that it might be costly. Then they told me that the alternative was going to be putting her to sleep because she could never be re-homed being that aggressive. Of course, I opted for the costly one and she was prescribed a mild sedative to take daily. Over the following year, she was put on a high dose and then had it titrated down to reveal that it’d provided her with the opportunity to psychologically recover from the trauma and she was back to being my Dolly again.
Cats Protection’s Guide to Managing Your Cat’s Behaviour:
After Dolly was put to sleep at only four years old, I very quickly made the decision to get a kitten. In fact, I brought my little calico, rescue kitten; Emmy, home within one week of losing Dolly. And I did that for a number of reasons, but the primary one was that me and my big, Lionhead bunny Pixie, were suddenly broken at the sudden, harsh, realisation we were a family of two. And we didn’t like it. Pixie seemed to constantly be looking for Dolly and became really needy and was constantly looking for attention from me.
Five tips to cope with the loss of a pet:
1. Don’t be afraid to look at photos and videos
2. Trust your instincts around what to do with their possessions
3. Never listen to anyone telling you how and when you should grieve
4. Consider that the pet would want you to manage your own wellbeing through the loss
5. Reach out – talk to someone
Cats Protection’s Bereavement Support Service:
With Emmy being a rescue, it was much more difficult to know any sort of history on her because she was reported as being found on the streets, traumatised, at only a few weeks old. Her trauma meant that she took a little while to be socialised so that she was ‘ready’ to be re-homed by the rescue centre, and that meant I couldn’t bring her home until she was a bit older. But I obviously would’ve rather brought her home as a lovely, friendly kitten than a terrified, anxious one. Especially with the knowledge that when she came to my home, she would be confronted by a rabbit – something which she very likely, had never seen. So, I recognised it could be a scary and intimidating environment for her but I followed my intuition and when I brought her home I introduced her to Pixie immediately. And also immediately, they hit it off! I think that speaks more for their personalities than it does the situation though. Emmy is a curious and adventurous cat, and Pixie is equally curious but also very placid and having grown up with Dolly, she was’t scared to meet a larger animal.
Cats Protection’s Guide to Kitten Socialisation:
So, that’s my journey of kittens and a few mental health related tips! I hope you liked this post and please find below all of Cats Protection’s social media links: