Book: Is your cat crazy?



Is your cat crazy? Solutions from the Casebook of a Cat Therapist by John C. Wright with Judi Wright Lashnits
(available for loan at the nlb)

Is your cat crazy? Despite the innate instinct to say “no”, you’re probably nodding your head at the same time.

This succinct, easy-to-understand book is light on theory but generous with relatable anecdotes and thoughts. Part of the reason must be the fact that the writer, Dr Wright, is also a cat minion to two females (Domino and Turk) himself. Right off the bat, he laid bare his minionly soul in chapter 1: “In search of the Perfect Cat”. And it is such a comfort to be reading about Dr Wright’s own search that an instant comaraderie coalesce.

Of course, this isn’t a self-help DIY gig to uncrazy your cat. There’s no such elixir-in-a-box. But it s a great help to getting a grip on what your cat does, why he does it, and your part in setting him off. Even if your cat’s this side of crazy, this book is an enlightening read for keeping him here.

Personally, I do find some discrepancies between Dr Wright’s opinions and diagnoses, and our experience – eg his seeming acceptance of declawing, which to his credit did seem viable given the circumstances, plus this book was printed in the 90’s – more is known now about the damage, both physical and psychological, that declawing inflicts on the poor cat. But well, cats aren’t factory-line products, so aside from the declawing bits, who’s to say what the good doctor says isn’t the rule of thumb?

On the whole, he makes a lot of sense and confirms more than negates the things we’ve learnt. For eg, the importance of a proper introduction for the new cat you’re adding, litterbox basics, keeping cats indoors and reducing the myriad sources of psychosis, the importance of vertical space to a cat’s sanity (especially if it’s a colony you’ve got), the importance of stability and familarity and so on and so forth.

Yet, despite all his experience, Dr Wright’s observations and case conclusions often carry the caveat that each cat is different from the next and therefore the circumstances and the program that works for one may not work for another (yup, say it with us: cats are not not factory-line productions). For example, after saying:

Researches have found a direct relationship between the number of cats in the household and the probability of spraying by one or more of them. One survey of 150 cat owners revealed that in a household with one cat, there was a 25 percent chance it would spray; in a household with ten cats, that likelihood jumped to 100 percent – there at least one sprayer in every such bunch. It’s something to think about if you value the quality of life for all your pets – not to mention the smell and sanitation of your home.

Dr Wright goes on to point out that “… I see households with numerous cats having no probles whatsoever. If each has sufficient space to be separate from the others, enjoying his own special location where he feels comfortable and can cope successfully witht the stresses of daily living in his territory, there is less likely to be a marking or stress-induced urination problem.”

Of course this is then balanced with “But I’ve seen big problems in households filled with cats….”

The bottomline is that where cats are concerned, generalisations are just that. Individually, they will not all conform to stereotypes. A very big part of who they are, how they behave, what’s wrong with them, and the hows and whys of getting them normal again has to do with the persons in their lives. Yes, the human mums and dads of any crazy cats. Don’t laugh, this might just be you.

Even as a TNRM minion, there were a few noteworthy quotes. Namely this one:

“… a recent study that gives us a good idea of typical feline home ranges, if they have the opportunity to travel as far as they want to each day. tom cats – unneutered male cats usually in search of fetile females – ranged over an area equivalent to about rwo acres, whereas neutered cats of both sexes used about one-tenth the home range of intact males.”

(Dr Wright defines the home range as an area which “extends to the farthest point away from home base the cat will normally go, but not necessarily defend” and territory as “an area he roams throughout and will defend”)

And this one:

“… feral (outdoor unowned) cats live an average of two to two-and-a-half yeats, whgile indoor cats now average seventeen years. Theres’ something to think about before opening the back door.”

I found his insights about “The Crime of Punishment” especially insightful too.

Dr Wright closed the book’s introduction thus:

The other day I saw an article in a newspaper from one of the world’s most sophisicated cities. It contained the mind-boggling statistics that 70,000 animals had endned up at the city’s SPCA in 1990, and 5,000 were “put down” at the owners’ request… reasons pet owners gave for giving their cats and dogs an almost certain death sentence (only 17,000 were adopted):

“I’m allergic.”

“My apartment’s too small.”

“I’m moving.”

“I’m going on vacation.”
My practice. amd this book, are a tribute to thoses cat owners who don’t consider a trip to the Bahamas a good reason to have a companion animal put to death. Before they find help their homes may look like battle zones or smell to high heaven; their cats may be hated by the neighbours; their limbs may be covered with scratches and bites; their patience and resources may be nearly exhausted.

But here are the people who cared enough to give their pets one more chance, and the cats who have made it all worthwhile.

So to all the genuine cat parent, too-shay, and don’t forget to give this book a go. You’ll find that even if you’re nodding in agreement with what’s written, the guilty twitch isn’t quite so bad – you are not alone in thinking your cat just might be crazy. But before you indict him or her, check yourself. If necessary, do it at Woodbridge.

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