You’re getting me, getting me through the night
Flashlight – Jessie J
This post includes a gifted item from the brand new Cats Protection clothing. You can buy my t-shirt and browse their other items here: https://catsprotectionclothing.com
So, I can’t believe I’ve had my little mini Lionhead, lop-eared bunny; Luna for four weeks now! Having her has been like one of those things where it feels like she’s been here forever; just because that’s how well and how quickly she has settled in…
When my first bunny, Pixie was put to sleep in April this year, I immediately realised I’d need to make the decision as to whether or not to get another bunny. And that might sound awful that I had just lost Pixie and was already thinking about a new rabbit… but it wasn’t about replacing her in any way at all!
It was about how having Pixie had provided such a helpful grounding technique when I would hallucinate rabbits. So, in her absence; I had the panic and concern that I wouldn’t be able to cope safely if the hallucinations were to come back (they’ve been gone for over a year now after my antipsychotic medication was increased). But, it also wasn’t even just about me and my mental health. It was also about my cat; Emmy and what the best decision would be for her and, to be fair, I initially put her before my own thoughts and feelings on it.
When we first lost Pixie, Emmy was so distressed and would walk around the house meowing, and then she’d frequently try to get into the cupboard where the hay and sawdust had been kept. After a little while of this, I bought Feliway (a kind of diffuser which emits scents that are meant to be soothing and calming for a cat) and after about two days of it being plugged in next to that cupboard, she lost fascination with it completely! But seeing her so sad and upset was a huge motivator for me to consider how she would be if I were to get another bunny.
After the Feliway, Emmy’s personality and behaviours seemed to slowly change from how she’d been when Pixie was here – she became more affectionate with me, more friendly and curious with strangers, and more confident when she went outside. A few people – myself included – attributed this to the fact that she now had all of my attention and she was the focus. To be honest, I think it was also about my attitude towards her changing… I mean, it was no secret that pixie and I had the most amazing bond and meaningful relationship, so losing her meant that I turned to Emmy for comfort. I had so many friends and family support, but Emmy felt like the only other ‘one’ who’d lived with Pixie 24/7 and so I saw her as the most understanding of the grief and loss I was experiencing.
Developing that special bond with Emmy, and seeing her finally settle into life without Pixie left me convinced that my decision was made and there wouldn’t be another rabbit… But there was always something niggling away at me – something that seemed to play on my mind because I wasn’t giving it attention – I missed having a rabbit in the house. It was that simple. It wasn’t about Pixie or Emmy or me, really. It was about my house no longer feeling like a home. No longer feeling complete.
In talking to others, most people were concerned about Emmy and how she would respond to another rabbit and some even wondered if it’d be ‘fair’ for her. That kind of upset me because I didn’t like the thought those people hadn’t considered the fact that of course I’d thought about Emmy in this! I wanted to reassure people that I wasn’t going to get caught up in the excitement of getting a new pet and end up forgetting about Emmy. By the time I began actively looking for a rabbit on Pets4Homes.co.uk I had come to the conclusion that one of two things would happen: Either, Emmy and the new bunny would get along famously, or they wouldn’t. And I was concrete on the thought that if it came to choosing, I would of course choose Emmy. Some people then thought this wouldn’t be fair on the bunny and I began wondering if I would ever win over people’s support of me getting a bunny! It finally got to the point where I just had to push everyone else’s opinions to one side and make what I was sure was the best decision for me, Emmy, and our home. And so, I finally found Luna!
Bringing her home on September 1st, it all became kind of surreal and I felt suddenly tasked with the important challenge of introducing Emmy and Luna… So this is where Cats Protection really come in with their very useful and helpful advice and information on introducing a cat to another pet: https://www.cats.org.uk/help-and-advice/cats-and-your-family/dogs-and-other-pets
But it’s one thing to read the advice, and another thing to live it! The best tips I found from the Cats Protection advice was around ensuring that your cat doesn’t feel ‘cornered’ in any way and not to ‘force’ the pets to meet. Here’s a little video of Emmy and Luna’s first introductions…
As you can see, Luna is in a comfy surroundings (my bed!) and her little bed is there which she seems to like to shrink into when she gets nervous. Also, Emmy has two exits; back through the window and outside, or through my bedroom door into the rest of the house. With Luna being so small and on the bed, it also meant there couldn’t be any chasing (Cats Protection advise you don’t allow the pets to chase one another and instead, praise them when they’re calm around one another. Very fortunately, my pets appear to know the meaning of ‘be nice’ because Emmy will go to sniff Luna a bit energetically and I’ll say that and she just sort of calms down, sniffs, and walks off! You can see how gentle Emmy becomes in this little video…
When Emmy and Luna are together, it feels as though my world is whole. As though there’s light to my life – no matter how dark my head may become. In mental health, people talk a lot about a tunnel and finding the light at the end of it… It’s something which I’ve always thought was a bit of a cliché – hence my embarrassment when a newspaper I was in used the metaphor as a ‘quote’ from me! So, it’s something I tend to stay away from – stereotypical things like that – but seeing Emmy and Luna bonding and loving each other, it’s hard not to see that as a light in my life. As a contrast to all the darkness that has clouded and consumed my head for so long. And whilst, I’ve been safe and haven’t self-harmed for over 400 days, that doesn’t mean there’s no difficult times and that I don’t still struggle with my mental health. But on those occasions, seeing two of the biggest loves of my life together – loving each other – just fills me with happiness and yes; light. And one of my most favourite instances of them being together was when they washed in unison…
Even though they’ve done so well with their introductions and they have a lovely little relationship and bond, I can’t imagine ever feeling comfortable or confident in leaving them alone together and me not being in the house… And it’s not about a fear of them hurting one another; it’s just that I’m fairly convinced that neither would be able to totally relax because chances are that one would be forever wanting to interact or play with the other!
The next challenge with Luna has come in determining some sort of pattern in terms of her spending time out of her hutch. When I had Pixie, I used to keep her in the kitchen with her hutch door open so that she could come and go for food, water, and her litter tray. Doing that, seemed to work really well and I felt happy that Pixie wasn’t just locked in her hutch the whole time.
So, getting Luna, I had it in my head that I’d do the similar kind of thing. Unfortunately, my Kitchen door wouldn’t shut tight since it was replaced so I had to have that fixed before I could start letting Luna have the whole room. It worked out quite well though because before I could shut the door, Luna wasn’t even big enough to get herself out of the hutch anyway. So, during that time, I carried her from the hutch to my bed and she seemed to enjoy exploring that and going onto the windowsill (my bed is against the window). Here’s a little video of her on it…
Once the door was fixed and she was big enough, it was still really strange to see her run around almost the entire house (she’s not allowed in the sitting room because of all the wires at the back of the TV (which Pixie used to enjoy chewing on) because she was still so small that she just looked drowned out by all the furniture. But she wasn’t intimidated in the slightest! And it ended up being a good illustration of how brave, curious, and excitable she is – qualities which I’d not known her to have until now. Seeing her like that, was a surprise because when I first brought her home, she was incredibly nervous and would either snuggle under my chin completely still, or hide in her bed, shrinking down as though desperate to somehow make herself even smaller. Whilst that’s so understandable – she had just been going about her business when she was picked up, carted on a bus, and put into a totally strange place! – it didn’t leave me with much hope that she’d ever become even remotely close to being confident enough to explore the house.
As the weeks have gone by, I noticed that Luna seems to struggle using her water bottle. So I sought advice from the Vets and when she started getting so frustrated at not mastering it, that she nudged at the water bottle so hard it fell off the hutch, I bought her a little bowl to drink from. When she literally dunked her face in it and sat there for probably about five minutes just lapping up the water and making cute little squeaking noises, I felt kind of… proud, I guess. Proud that I’d made the right decision on her behalf.
Going through psychiatric hospital admissions, I had so many experiences of professionals making decisions that would impact my life and yet I never felt a part of that decision-making process. Everything was just done to me and not with me. I mean, I was literally deprived of my freedom countless times when I was sectioned under the 1983 Mental Health Act and treat without my consent. It was demeaning – life-saving – but demeaning! And those feelings of inadequacy and being patronised, have made me probably overly aware of any instances where I’m in danger and at risk of leaving someone feeling the same.
But looking after pets is different. As much as they can communicate, they can’t talk to you and say how they feel and what they want; and that means either guessing and assuming, or developing some sort of intuition. I’d like to think that’s what happens for me (the intuition bit) with Luna and Emmy – and with Pixie too! When Pixie first became poorly a week or two before she was put to sleep, I said that I had a bad feeling about it. The vets did tests and yes, they found that she was poorly; but for a while they were convinced that she would make it. That the worst possible thing wasn’t going to happen. Whilst I obviously hoped that they were right, nothing got rid of that intuition and whilst I’m absolutely gutted that it ended up being accurate, it gave me a little reassurance that I knew what was right and true for my pets. It gave me a little bit of confidence in bringing Luna hope – the notion that I’d do well at being her Mum. So, whilst recognising it was time to try Luna with a bowl of water rather than the bottle, sounds kind of small and pathetic(!); it actually meant so much more! Here’s a little video of her first time drinking from the bowl (sound on for the squeaks!)…
Those squeaks and the bit about her being curious and energetic, are just parts of her little personality. When I first lost Pixie, I was debating getting another cat but when talking to a seller, and saying that Emmy was still distressed, I backed out. The seller told me I was humanising Emmy and that pets ‘don’t grieve properly.’ I’d agree that you could debate whether they grieve in the exact same way as humans, but I definitely argued with the seller about the reality of Emmy’s grief and my conviction that she had been hurting just as much as I was. And, in all honesty, surely I know that better than anyone? Kind of like that intuition thing.
In considering pets to grieve, it kind of leads onto the concept that pets have personalities. That they have qualities about them which can kind of make or break a relationship with them. I mean, if you had a cat who was really independent, but you had wanted a ‘lap cat’ then it could cause a reluctance in keeping the cat. So, recognising the influence and importance a pet’s personality can have, I’m really enjoyed learning about Luna’s. Discovering her little quirks and the things that make her special and which really contribute to my love for her. And probably my favourite quirk, is how funny she is – I mean, everything she does is like watching a comedy (I wonder if it’s because of her moustache?!) and so when she went into the McDonald’s bag, I wasn’t surprised! Here’s a video of it to leave this post with you smiling…