Feral Redux – Rupert, 30 Days and What Worked

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FB_IMG_1451241308535Rupert is still making slow and steady progress. He even let me trim out about half of the huge matte on his back. Trusting me to get over him with scissors is a monumentally big deal. I didn’t want to get too close to the skin though, so I’m hoping to brush the remaining knot out with the regular grooming brush. He LOVES getting brushed. And pet. And kissed on his little ole noggin. He purrs like an idling diesel engine; though he is still very very shy and won’t venture out of his nest unless it’s dark and or quiet and the door to the room is closed. We leave it open with baby gates as often as we can, being that we need to supervise Moon so he doesn’t jump over the gate and add more stress to the situation. We are also in the room a lot. He finds the television very interesting.

It’s a slow process, so this month I wanted to talk about the strategies I used in the last 30+ days that I feel have worked.

Since Rupert’s situation was so very different than Moon’s with respect to stress levels, I didn’t want to try anything too terribly risky in the first 30 days, so I stuck with traditional methods and therapies: things I used with Moon that worked for him. Note: as always, adjunct therapies should be used in conjunction with traditional behavior modification techniques. See Merck Manual.

Month 1 in conjunction with Safe, Warm, and Soft

  1. Feliway Diffuser – Synthetic Feline Pheromones
  2. Calming Chews – L-Theanine Amino Acid
  3. Catnip – Spray Oil
  4. A Safe Room, A Warm room, and a Soft nest to sleep and hide in.

Note: The above are all natural therapies and do not require a prescription.

We’ll start with Feliway. My vet recommended this for Moon when he became overly stressed with the thought that the outdoor animals were going to invade his new kingdom, stressed to the point of recurring cystitis that eventually caused a urinary tract blockage. I used the diffusers and 60-90 days was sufficient to resolve the issue. There have been lots of studies on Feline Pheromones, some showing positive results, some showing no results at all. I can tell you though that it does do something. I put a drop on one of my ferrets so that Moon wouldn’t see him as a threat, and my little ferret freaked the hell out. I had to give him a bath to wash it off of him. It didn’t occur to me at the time that I was maybe putting predator scent on him. Lesson learned, and because of that, I do think cats respond to it; however, the response may not be the dramatic response we were expecting. It’s not a magic bullet or overnight cure.

How I think it works: I think it has a calming effect, so that during those 60-90 days, with behavior modification, the cat learns to cope with the stressor. Sort of like aroma-therapy only with happy cat stink.

detail_070068C_021Next, the calming chews. I also obtained these from my vet, though you can buy them at most pet stores with the same ingredients. The GNC and Vermont Naturals Brands are the same profile as what is offered at the vet’s office. One chew a day is all you need and they smell and taste pretty good, so you should have no trouble getting them to take it by itself or mixed in with their food.

L-theanine is an amino acid found in tea. Its calming effects are well documented and studied. This is from The Psychiatric Times:

L-Theanine (gamma-ethylamino-L-glutamic acid)

Green tea is used as a restorative in traditional Chinese medicine and contains many bioactive constituents, including the amino acid L-theanine. The anti-anxiety effect of L-theanine is achieved through enhanced alpha brain wave activity and increased synthesis of GABA.20,21 Greater GABA levels, in turn, increase the brain’s levels of dopamine and reduce serotonin levels, resulting in general feelings of calm and well-being. Changes in brain electrical activity, as measured with EEG, are dose-dependent and are similar to the beneficial EEG changes observed in meditation, including increased alpha waves in the occipital and parietal regions. A calming effect is usually noted within 30 to 40 minutes after L-theanine is taken […] and typically lasts 8 to 10 hours. […]

Redaction is dosage recommendations, which apply only to human subjects.

Unlike benzodiazepines and other conventional anti-anxiety treatments, L-theanine does not result in increased drowsiness, slowed reflexes, or impaired concentration. There is no risk of tolerance or dependence developing, and there have been no reports of serious adverse effects or interactions with other natural products or conventional drugs.

5-oz-pump-sprayAs for the Catnip, well, it’s catnip, and in my experience it doesn’t have the crazy wild effect with feral cats that it has on other cats, but it does have a calming effect. I used it with Moon to train him on his scratching posts and toys. The spray is much stronger and easier to work with than the dry herb and obviously not as messy. You can spray it on your hands prior to petting sessions and you can spray it on toys and scratching posts. It has a nice herbal scent and feral cats seem to like herbal scents, especially if they are new to using a litter box. Cat Attract additive is a must for litterbox training. I’ve tried many catnip sprays and the one I like the best is Frisky Spritz by Cosmic Catnip now owned by OurPets.

Rupert came a long way in the first month; faster than I thought he would, considering the fact that he was basically kidnapped and held hostage. Once he found the soft cat bed and realized that it made a good hidey spot, I was able to touch him, and once I was able to touch him, things progressed quickly with regard to his comfort level with us and physical contact. The power of a loving touch should not be underestimated either. I mean, who wouldn’t love a warm soft bed with someone gently massaging them to sleep?

In the next post, I’ll discuss Month 2 in that I swapped out the calming chews and catnip spray for Bach’s Rescue Remedy and Spirit Essences Holistic Sprays.

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