Friday, July 8, 2005

New Cat

She's about six years old with a shaggy white coat and blue eyes. She's deaf. And her name is Frannie...

Oh, wait--that's my *old* cat named Frannie. But that old Frannie was anxious and aggressive and so stressed-out that she pulled her fur out. Even after four years with us, she would flinch when we made a motion to pet her. The new Frannie lies peacefully at the foot of the bed and looks at me with such affection and tranquility in her eyes--it can't be the same cat.

But it is. At our wits'-end in trying to treat her aggression with Clarence, the vet suggested that we try putting her on Prozac. It has been just a week and already it is like having a whole new cat. Well, not entirely new. The old Frannie is still there personality-wise but it feels like the fear that must have been a part of her life since her youngest days has receded.

We are her fourth or fifth home--she passed through a lot of fear and neglect before she was even a year old. The world can be a confusing, frightening place for a deaf cat, especially one who is growing up on the street, and Frannie came to us with a whole complex of psychological baggage. She was destructive, aggressive (stalking poor shy Clarence to distraction,) and self-mutilating. But we could also see that she loved us and was very devoted to us. Even when she was being corrected by a well-aimed squirt of the water bottle (from chasing Clarence,) her response was not to run away from us but toward us. (As long as it got her away from Clarence, that was fine with us. When she was sitting beside us, she wasn't stalking him.) I told Denny one night that I had the feeling that if we were living out in the woods in a tent with all our cats, Frannie is one that wouldn't wander off. We are probably the only love she has ever known.

It was heart-breaking that she was socially crippled with her fear-driven behavior. I couldn't give her up--not after all she has been through--but she was just too disruptive to our household. After Clarence's second vet visit in a month to treat Frannie-inflicted wounds, we knew we had to do something.

So it filled my heart with warmth when I woke up the other morning to find Frannie looking peacefully out at the world that has so often in the past been a source of fear for her. I am going to keep her away from Clarence for a while longer--hoping to break her habit of chasing him--but I am optimistic that we have found some relief for her from her inner demons.

Like I said, it's like having a whole new cat. Or re-discovering the better side of an old one.

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