Monday, July 6, 2009

Cat depression...

So I came back from the 4th of July party in Antigua to not good news. The party was fun. I got that party-ed out feeling about halfway through (170 Peace Corps volunteers, 80% I had never met before + loud music + dancing + general craziness). The ambassador and his sons came and played in the staff vs. volunteer soccer game and beat us.

The bad news, I came home and the remaining mean kitten, Willie, has run away. I don't know if he got out and couldn't find his way back or just got sick of me. There is still faint hope he will come back, but he has been gone more than the 24 hours they make you wait to file a police report for missing persons by now...

Aslan has been wandering listlessly around the house, calling out for Willie, looking for her, and won't leave my side. It is SO sad. He is obviously really missing his friend and I don't know what to do. The online help I found wasn't so helpful.

Treating Cat Depression ( My comments in RED

Step 1
Cats are creatures of habit. Search your home for any recent changes, such as a new brand of kitty litter of cat food (or maybe disappeared companions?) . Temporarily revert to the old brands and gauge the changes in your pet.
Step 2
Monitor how you are presenting yourself to your cat. Pets pick up on the emotions of their owners. Try to be as cheerful as possible when around them. (Uh-oh...I am usually tired, lazy, or stressed out...)
Step 3
Play with your cat! Set aside at least 15-30 minutes a day to interact with your pet. An easy game: attach a feather to a stick using string. Pretend it’s a fishing pole, and dangle the feather over your cat’s head. Make him leap for it. Let him catch and play with it from time to time so he doesn’t get bored. ( from a chicken....?)
Step 4
Make an effort to pet, hold and groom your cat as often as you can. This will give him the security he needs to feel content. (ok, I think I could have thought of that...)
Step 5
Contact with the outdoors can work wonders. Clear a comfortable perch for your cat by a window, preferably in view of outdoor critters such as squirrels and birds. If you have a backyard, take your pet out for supervised visits. (what happens if your cat lives outside all the time...import some more interesting birds? The slingshot squirrel massacres here eliminate that possiblity...)
Step 6
Consider getting a second cat if the reason seems to be loneliness. An extra buddy to play with can make all the difference! (A second cat so it can run away too? Besides, I think he will know the you think the mangy cat he lets steal his food counts...?)
Step 7
Take your pet for an examination and blood test. If physical causes are ruled out, it could be the result of a chemical imbalance. You vet may prescribe anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medications to treat it. (Guatemalans laugh at me for giving my cat real cat food instead of table scraps and for taking it for its shots...I think anti-depressants for my cat just might tip the crazy-gringa scale against me...that also sounds like something my PCV budget wouldn't quite allow for)

Too much FOOD....

A lot of the cultural adjustments for us in Guatemala center around food. Vegetarians are misunderstood and often ridiculed...vegans have it worse. The food make people sick, gives them worms, and there are times when we just don't want to see another tortilla ever again.

The worst part, though, is that everyone is always offering you food. They invite you to coffee, to lunch, to snack, to dinner. Every time you stop by to say hello the food get's brought out to make you feel welcome. Bread, coffee, tortillas, beans,'s all an option. The custom in probably amplified but the fact that I am obviously not from around here and people go out of their way to make sure I feel welcome. At Christmas, Keri and I were given more tamales than I could stand to eat in a year.

Ok, so I know, right? I too thought that a culture in which you were always offered food (and usually good tasting food) was HEAVEN! Who wouldn't want to have the option of always eating, not to mention never having to cook for yourself or wash the dishes because you are invited to eat in other people's houses?

Well folks, there is another cultural aspect that complicates things. In Guatemala, it is also rude and offensive to refuse an invitation. That's just ate dinner? It doesn't matter, you should eat again. "No thank you" translates to "I don't like your food or your house or you" when you turn down food. Also, if you don't clear your plate, it means you didn't like it! Example: I am in the middle of eating second snack at school (first snack was a huge cup of atol I was given before I went to the store to get the snack I really wanted) when the teachers invited me to go eat snack with them (which by the way is more of a meal...chicken and tortillas and rice..) So, I barely choke that down and have about an hour leeway before someone is offering me lunch. AH!

Who would have thought I, lover of food, daughter of Kathy "are you hungry?" Stanaway would dread the thought of free food...