“There are kittens underneath the deck,” my mother said to me when I came home from a tai chi class one summer afternoon. “This is the second day that I’ve watched them playing in the grass. They aren't very old. Just a few weeks.”
“Have you seen the mother cat?” I asked. “Not once," she said. "I think she may have abandoned them.”
That’s how it began, this relationship with Eddy , who we often called Eddy Spaghetti. We cared for him and loved him for 8 years and he taught us a lot about caring for a cat. He's the reason we started Happy Cats Wellness and we consider him our founder and CFO (Chief Feline Officer).
Eddy had several medical issues, that demanded our constant attention. One of them was over-grooming. We came home from a weekend trip to find that while we were gone, he'd mowed his sides from just behind the shoulder to his hips. It looked as though someone had given him a buzz cut with a hair trimmer.
He wouldn't stop grooming that same area. We made an appointment with our veterinarian and put him in an infants coverup--it's called a onesie--but even that didn't stop him.
Our veterinarian explained that compulsive behavior like Eddy's could have many causes--underlying medical issues, anxiety, allergies--and none of these causes can be tested for quickly--they all take time.
Meanwhile, Eddy is grooming non-stop and this behavior will eventually lead to raw, sore spots that can become infected and lead to even worse medical problems. He was prescribed prednisone, of course, the go-to drug for many issues. That didn't help and we decided to find a way to slow down the damage until we could find the cure.
We bought medical coverups from a leading vendor but they were too bulky, confining, and looked uncomfortable with all the extra material bundled up in the abdominal area where the adjustments were made "for a better fit".
I tried making coverups with parts of infant pajamas that I bought, took apart, and pieced back together to make them appropriate for a cat. Am I a clothing designer? A tailor? No on both counts. It didn't work, mainly because Eddy kept finding ways to wiggle out of them during the night.
We ordered custom coverups from Etsy tailors and after several back and forth transactions with no better results, we were ready to give up. Eddy was practically bald by now.
During the time we were searching for coverups, we also changed Eddy's diet--several times--and we changed his lifestyle (I was becoming certified in Pet Preventive Health and learned a lot about enriching a cat's environment and, by doing so, enriching the cat's lifestyle and reducing stress and anxiety.)
The excessive grooming stopped as abruptly as it began.
We now realize that the excessive grooming stopped because of the changes in his lifestyle and environment more than anything else.
Eddy was out of danger for the time being but our effort to find the best coverup for over-grooming issues had taught us that there was no satisfactory solution available on the market. The fundamental problem is that none of the available products were designed to be comfortable in all the common positions routinely adopted by cats. The fit might be perfect while the cat stands on all fours, but when the cat lies down and curls up, the collar presses into the neck or pulls away from the shoulders--and that's just one of many possible scenarios where the cover-ups down work.
We learned that as many as 23% of all cat's are expected to have over-grooming issues at some point in their lives and that was too troubling for us to ignore. Cathryn set to work to learn about the anatomy of a cat and the design of a cover-up that would be comfortable for a cat's unique anatomy and behavior.
Coming soon: Designing a coverup that fits a cat's unique physique...