Using writing, and meditation, and ice cream, and reading, and dreams,

and a whole lot of other tools to rediscover who I am,

after six years living with a man with OCPD.

Friday, February 4, 2011

My Cat Has An Eating Disorder...

...and I blame myself.

Simile on the left, Metaphor (pink nose) on the right.
About 3-4 months old here.
 When Metaphor, Simile and I moved in with ex b-f, the girls were then about 1½ years old, and both were slim young kitties.

And he liked cats, and he came to slavishly adore these two sisters. But:
  • They were not to be allowed on the kitchen counters. Fair enough, I’m not real fond of cat hair as a condiment myself.
  • They were not to be allowed in the bedroom. Okay, that’s a hard one. The girls were used to sleeping with me, in my bed. But OCPD ex b-f expressed a horror of waking up with a mouth full of cat hair and claimed it made it hard for him to breathe, and I could see reasonableness in this. So at first we kept the bedroom door shut, and later, when I’d invested a fortune in scat mats, they couldn’t get into the bedroom.  (They could only stand outside the mat area and cry for us in the morning.)
  • They were not to be allowed outside, ever ever ever. There had been a feral cat outside once, who had kittened in the carport, and it took forever to get the fleas eradicated. Okay, that makes sense. They were already used to staying inside anyway, so while I’d thought the freedom to have a yard to roam in, to watch and try to catch birdies, might be thrilling for them... okay.
  • They were not to be allowed on the window ledges. Their claws, as they jumped up, might scratch the paint. But, cats love looking outside of windows, I said. Nope, not to be allowed.
  • They were not to be allowed up on the furniture. They were now to be "floor cats."
I blame myself for caving in on the last two points. I should have packed my bags and cat carriers and left then and there. But... I wanted to give the relationship a chance. I thought as time went on, he’d unbend a bit. I knew nothing about OCPD then, and thought, this is a rough adjustment all ‘round, if I only give it time, we’ll all get used to living together.  He’ll let the cats on the furniture after all, and it’ll be okay.

Metaphor on the left; Simile aka Skinny
on the right, had gorgeous blue eyes.
Simile's markings were a shade lighter than her sister's.
 And he did, in fact, let the cats on the chairs and couch eventually. Metaphor, whom he dubbed "Stinky," loved to climb onto the sofa and take naps during the day with "Dad," centered directly over his crotch (at least in early days, before she weighed more than a pro bowling ball.) Simile, whom he dubbed Skinny, greeted him almost like a puppy whenever he came in the door, and played endlessly with him, to both of their delights. He relented enough to let them have an area in the office where they could climb up on a ledge and look out the windows at the birdies and squirrels, and the front and back doors were left open (with a closed screen door) as often as the weather permitted.

Stinky played with him, too, but despite this, her weight blew up tremendously in the first year. They were both about the right weight when we moved in, 11-12 pounds, but Stinky quickly ballooned up to about 16-17 pounds. Hence him dubbing her sister "Skinny."

Simile, aka Skinny, developed a sudden kidney infection and died when we’d been living together about a year. Ex b-f still misses her and will mist up, even weep when he thinks about her, years later. (Interesting thing about OCPD, he rarely wept about me - I'm thinking it's because allowing oneself to feel about a cat is safe.)  Stinky was a somewhat shyer personality, and seemed more impacted by the yelling and the OCPD negative atmosphere. After her sister died, we thought we’d be able to get her weight down, since we could better control her portions, and after consulting with the vet, devised an appropriate type of food and daily amount.

Whenever fed, regardless of the amount of food fed, she would scarf down every single kibble in her bowl and plaintively meow for more.  Not the regular cat pattern of eating a little, coming back later for a little more, and then a little more.

Ex b-f devised a schedule to spread it out over the course of the day. He would feed her every four hours (since he didn’t work), because we discovered, whenever she went too long between feedings, she would wolf it all down and then vomit.

Yes, my cat is bulimic.

Stinky looking out the back door of ex b-f's house.

So, when I made the decision to move out, I had to segue her back to basically a twice daily feeding schedule. (I stagger it a little - give her a little first thing in the morning, then the rest right before  I leave for work, and in the evening, a little bit when I first come home from work, then more later.)  She seems to be doing okay, though she still pukes once in a while, especially if I have to run an errand after work and her night time feeding is a bit delayed.

Has she lost any weight? No; in fact, she's about 22 pounds, ugh! Can I cut the amount of food I’m giving her? No, according to the vet, she is already on the minimum amount of diet food, I cannot cut her ration any further.

I wonder if cats can learn mindful eating techniques.

I do feel guilty, taking her away from her "Dad." He doted on her tremendously, and played with her during the day, which I can’t do, since I work. He also, by the time we left, was screaming at her for "scratching too loudly in her litterbox."  Or if it was approaching mealtime and she was whining for food. Or if he just had a hair up his a– for whatever reason, he'd yell at her, talk about wanting to throw her out on the freeway. (Or he'd yell at me, of course, but that’s a given.) 

I tried to put my foot down, tell him he was probably making her more neurotic, that if his goal was to get her to stop sh-tting in the litterbox, yelling at her while she was taking care of business was a great way to accomplish it.  Sometimes he would listen, and modify his behavior, but towards the end of our living together, it got worse, rather than better.  Sometimes he would even throw an object at her out of irritation, and even though she always got out of the way, big belly comically swaying - what if she hadn't?!  She could have been hurt - and I'm sure if she had, he would have been very sorry and filled with guilt.  But she still would have been hurt.

It certainly wasn't "teaching her a lesson," unless the lesson was that "Dad" was a nutcase and not to be trusted.

So, I blame myself for bringing Metaphor to live with "Dad" in the first place.  And not realizing sooner that it was a toxic environment, not just for me, but for her.

She does purr her brains out at night, now, cuddled up to me in bed. Or in the morning, when I’m on the floor doing yoga and she’ll lie down near me and I’ll pet her as I'm lurching into downward dog. I do think she’s lonely during the day, and I feel bad about that.

But I don’t yell at her, even if I’m writing and she comes into my office and takes a big Stinky dump (this is where her litterbox is) while I’m trying to write or work on something.

Tonight, when I was playing "string" with her (her favorite,) Stinky once looked at me with big wide pupils, and I felt horribly, horribly guilty for taking her away from her "Dad" who played with her much more than I do. Who always asks about her when we talk (much less frequently now since I’ve officially called it quits.) Who would call me "Mom" like the cat was our child or something, as if she'd get perturbed if he referred to me by name.  This is one of my guilt-inducing "triggers," him mournfully telling me that the cat and I were his last family, that he thought we'd be with him to the end of his life (with the intimations that wouldn't be long now, because of his poor health.)

Metaphor on the new bed.
 And yet, I think overall, Metaphor's life is better now. (I know mine is, except for the pangs of guilt.)  I bought her a new "cat tree" so she can perch by the window and watch squirrels and birds. I let her out of the apartment to explore for a few minutes a couple of times a week, which she seems to really enjoy. She gets to sleep with me again, and seems to be very happy about that, judging by the volume of her purring.

I was hoping she (and I) would magically shrink in size and weight once we were on our own, out of the toxic OCPD atmosphere, but that hasn’t happened (yet.) We’re both still pretty big girls, alas.

And yet, I know we are so much better off than before. Our home is more peaceful, and our mutual weight issue... I tell myself it's early days yet.  That it will happen eventually.

Or, it won’t. And I’m working towards finding peace with that.