Feral Redux – Rupert, 60 Days and What Worked (or NOT)

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The Cat Room/Den Library

Month two progress was slow and steady for Rupert. We were able to put the carpet back in the room, though it is covered in an old blanket since I don’t want to vacuum in there just yet. We were also able to get his flea/worm/mite treatment on him again without issue, and, the big and, he let me cut the rest of that awful matte off his back. Note: do not cut matted fur off an animal unless you have safety/surgical scissors, a metal comb to protect the skin, and a cat who will remain still. An emergency room trip to get stitches isn’t the intended result. 

All in all, I’d say things went well in the second month. Rupert really does love affection. He starts purring as soon as you put a finger on him. So since not really much has changed, this month I’ll discuss the stress remedies I used during month two, which consisted of swapping out the calming chews and catnip spray for Bach’s Rescue Remedy and Spirit Essences Holistic Sprays.

Month 2 in conjunction with Safe, Warm, and Soft:

  1. Feliway Diffuser – Synthetic Feline Pheromones
  2. Bach’s Rescue Remedy
  3. Spirit Essences: Scaredy Cat and Feral Flowers
  4. A Safe Room, A Warm room, and a Soft nest to sleep and hide in.

I spoke about trying the holistic remedies early on in the process, but I didn’t want to use conflicting modalities or do too much at the same time. When we brought Moon in, we simply used the Feliway, Calming Chews, and Catnip along with basic behavior modification training. Moon is a cuddly little bug of a thing now, but the first year was a difficult transition for him. That said, what we did worked, so I wanted to start with exactly that so as not confuse the results.

In our month 2 scenario, I replaced the Calming Chews and the Catnip with Bach’s Rescue Remedy and Jackson Galaxy’s Spirit Essences: Scaredy Cat and Feral Flowers. I am not going to endorse or recommend either because I cannot definitively say that they improved the situation, or, in fact, did anything at all except make me feel like I was doing something. If you really want to try them, I’ll discuss each at the end of the post, but please, try the traditional approaches first and make sure the cat gets to the Vet.

Now I happen to be a big fan of herbals, acupuncture, meditation, and positive thinking/energy therapy. That said, the question that inevitably comes up is whether or not such approaches actually work or are they just snake oil spiritual voodoo hoo ha. My answer is: Yes to some and I don’t know to others. Having used the flower essences now, I still don’t know. I cannot say definitively if they work or not. What I do know for certain is that positive energy helps. Animals are particularly sensitive to the energetic output of other creatures, including humans. If we are scared, nervous, angry, or unsure, they can feel it and see it. Negative energy creates tension, in our bodies, in our voices, in our smell, and in our actions. We know how draining it is to be around negative drama people, so imagine how it feels for an already nervous animal to be approached and accosted by an animal as large as we are when we are in a negative space. We project that negativity into them and we reinforce their own negative feelings.

So by that logic, if we approach holistic modalities from a positive mindset, it can’t hurt anything except for our wallet. And it won’t hurt our wallet too much as long as we understand that there is no magic cure-all that we can spray on the animal or put in their food that will make them all better overnight. It doesn’t work for people. It doesn’t work for animals. Behavior modification is a complex thing, and it takes a multi-tiered and complex approach, allowing for the fact that not every approach will work, as every being is unique. Anyone who has had dealings with an addict knows this to be true. Your rescue cat is addicted to fear because it has helped them survive. It takes a long time to change that sort of thinking, so if spraying an herbal essence on your hands before touching the animal helps to get you in a positive space then it helps, however indirectly.

And now that I have experimented with such products for 30+ days, by indirectly, I mean that I question whether or not you can actually bottle that sort of energy and sell it? With herbal remedies, via macerations and extracts and infusions and powdered herbs, you are actually using the plant, the efficacy of its chemical properties depends on the level of processing or lack thereof. Even aromatherapy is a chemical reaction. Plant constituents are present and shit happens. And we know shit happens because these chemicals and their actions can be studied scientifically. Meditation produces a calming effect; the physiological effects have been scientifically documented. With acupuncture, we are physically stimulating the body. But with Essences, well, it’s all really rather vague.

I make herbal macerations for homemade soap and beauty products. This involves placing dried herbs in alcohol, oil, or water and letting it sit in a dark place for an extended period of time. This cold maceration preserves the beneficial chemical properties of the herbs in question but heating the suspension lightly works as well, like in the case of sun tea, where tea bags are placed in water and then placed in the sun to steep. Herbal infusions are made in the same way; although in some cases called “essences,” the plants are simply waved over the liquid in question and what you wind up with in this scenario is basically a bottle of water with the idea of the plant in it. Yeah, I know. Sounds like snake oil.

So, if I had to choose between Bach’s and Spirit Essences, well, sorry Jackson Galaxy, I have to go with Bach’s rescue remedy. Why Bach’s?rrpet20ml-med

The Bach Flower Remedies are made 100% naturally from spring water infused with wild flowers, either by the sun-steeped method or by boiling. The Remedies are hand produced exclusively in England. The Remedies contain 27% grape based brandy as a preservative. Or the alcohol free versions are preserved in glycerin made from sunflowers.

The process is clearly outlined and the ingredients (herbs they use) are listed. The physical plant material is used, and a chemical extraction process is used via infusion or boiling, infusion being the gentler of the two, and they have alcohol free varieties. No alcohol means it’s easier to administer in food or water:

NO TASTE. NO SMELL.

As for Jackson’s Spirit Essences, nowhere on the site could I find the method outlined for extracting said essences. If they source their essences from elsewhere, then the suppliers should be clearly listed as should the process. The only thing I found was a disclaimer under Ingredients:

Spirit Essences Ingredients

Each bottle of Spirit Essences is comprised of two types of ingredients: physical and energetic. The physical ingredients are: spring water and alcohol, used as a preservative. The energetic ingredients are: Reiki energy and a variety of flower, animal and gem essences. Please note: No actual plant, animal or gem matter is used in our formulas, only the energetic blueprint. Our formulas are non-toxic and safe.

There is no plant material present in these formulations? Uh Huh. Even with sun-steeped tea, plant constituents are present in the end product. So according to their Ingredient list, it’s just the “spirit essence” or energetic signature that is used: Energetic Blueprint, water, and a fuck-ton of alcohol.

Enough that it smells like a bottle of alcohol. Isopropyl Alcohol not tasty Vodka.

I like Jackson Galaxy. Have read his books (even reviewed one) and I watch his show and support his causes. I didn’t do much research before I bought his formulas, assuming they were the same as Bach’s. The lack of transparency on the website is worrisome, and sadly, I will not be using this product in the future. It has way too much alcohol. They smell terrible. I would never ever put this in an animal’s food or water, and spraying it on your hands or in the room is an asphyxiating experience until the alcohol dissipates. I found the only way to use this stuff was to spray the food dish and then let it sit 20 minutes until the smell was gone before putting the food on it. The last thing you want to do is turn an animal off their food or water when they are already stressed. I don’t use the Feliway spray for the same reason. I used these “formulas” religiously for about 2 weeks then I dumped the unused stuff down the drain in frustration.

So again, if I had to go with one of these holistic flower formulas, I’d go with Bach’s because they are actual infusions according to their FAQ, and they are easier to administer because they have alcohol free formulations. I did use the Bach’s for the full 30 days and then some, but speaking frankly, I could not tell if there was more or less improvement than with the Feliway, Catnip, and L-theanine chews. If there were behavioral changes happening, they were imperceptible to me. Tomlyn also has a formula under the name Natural Pet that is alcohol free, but I didn’t try that brand because their website provided ingredients but no preparation information, though I would be more likely to try it versus Jackson’s Essences for the alcohol issue alone. So all I can say is to try Bach’s if you like; it certainly won’t hurt, just don’t expect miracles.

IMG_0009Disclaimer: I’m just an ordinary ferret/cat lover and caregiver, and this was nowhere near a scientific study. All I can report are my own experiences using the products listed and my limited witchy knowledge of herbal preparations. I did not account for the placebo effect on the human either. I used the Month 1 methods on two feral-born cats with success. I can’t definitively claim success with the other holistic modalities. Maybe my cats lack the sensitivity to such things, or maybe 30 days isn’t enough time. Who knows? The alcohol was an issue for sure, and I don’t like vagaries. I want to know the who, the what, and the how when it comes to any kind of medicine, holistic or otherwise. I’m going to continue on with what has proven to work for me. Other’s mileage will vary.

For the next 30 days we are going “door open.” It’s a little scary thinking about Moon and Rupert climbing the gates and tearing each other apart while we are at work, but in reality, that’s MY ISSUE. MY FEAR. It’s not based in reality. I know that Rupert and Moon are both shy nervous cats. They are not aggressive and prefer to practice avoidance above all else, plus, they always got on when they were outside feral cats and that says something profound about their personalities. I have to trust my instincts not my fears. My instincts have 8 years experience with these cats in the wild. That has to count for something.

They need to smell and see each other during the day when it’s quiet and we are not there to muck up the situation with our anxiety “concerns.” I’ll let you know if there is any progress in the next update.

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