We thought she could do it.
We sincerely believed Natalie could play nice even without Prozac.
We were a bunch of dunderheads.*
Our wild orange woman has always rocked boats (and houses, and Casbahs). Since blazing into Ringoes from Kentucky, Natalie has not experienced one single, solitary dull moment. It’s been her mission not to allow anyone else to do so, either.
Nat is easily the most effusive cat in Suite B. Pick her up, and she’ll rub her entire soul all over your face, complete with bluegrassy purrs and rapturous blinks. Fail to pick her up, and she’ll catapult onto your shoulder from the floor, imposing her affection on you. I’ve seen her do this to 4-year-olds. I’ve seen her do this to a 91-year-old man in a wheelchair. I’ve seen children of all ages melt in the wake of her mushiness. I’m a ball of putty in her paws, and she knows she’s one of my all-time Favorite Cats That Have Ever Been Born.
But Nat is also easily the most volcanic cat in Suite B. Mid-lovefest, something will come over her. If you’re lucky, you’ll see her expression change. On Planet Natalie, it’s a fine line between “I love you more than marshmallows” and “I HATE YOU AS I HATE HELL AND ALL MONTAGUES AND YOU ALSO SMELL LIKE CHEESE.” Rubbing turns to biting. Melting turns to bleeding. Laughs turn to screams. Even if you’re 4 years old. Even if you’re 91 years old.
And then she’ll return to pure affectionate innocence again.
Given this whiplash behavior, combined with her ever-volcanic ways with her own species, we started Natalie on Prozac shortly after her Tabby’s Place debut c. 500 BC. This has kept a lid on our little volcano’s violence. (OK, a loose lid. Maybe more like Saran Wrap. But still an improvement.) Truly, Nat seemed happier without her tendencies towards warfare. I’ve been told by People Who Are Smarter Than Me that Prozac works best in cats whose “problem behaviors” are rooted in anxiety. So, it would stand to reason that Natalie herself felt less anxious – hence the decrease in her maulings of other beings.
In her 2613 years on Prozac, Natalie’s done just beautifully. So it was with fear and trembling and hope that we agreed to wean her off the drug this spring. Maybe she didn’t need it anymore. Maybe we’d broken her brutal habits once and for all.
And maybe I am, in fact, the Queen of Spain.
This week, Natalie greeted a certain staff member who shall remain anonymous, but whose name may or may not rhyme with Splane, in a most notable way. No sooner had brave Splane entered the room, than did Natalie launch onto Splane’s leg, claws out, screaming and tearing and riding aforementioned leg “like a hobo jumping a freight train.” (Those are Splane’s own words.)
That wasn’t all. Nat fought cats. Nat fought humans. Nat was clearly anxious…and angry…and ready to assault everything.
Nat was on the fast track to a Prozac encore.
It was another staff member – let’s call her Fanielle – who gave Natalie a reprieve from her medication. Although Prozac is typically well-tolerated, and certainly an improvement over a Suite B bloodbath, any medication has its long-term risks – and any medication makes a cat “less adoptable” in the eyes of most humans. So Fanielle suggested one last thing before going back on the ‘zac: The Calm Diet.
The Calm Diet contains magical substances like tryptophan and hydrolyzed milk proteins and fairy dust to “help maintain the cat’s emotional balance.”
I am not making this up. There is a Calm Diet. Yes, really. This is a thing.
And lest you accuse us of quackery, this appears to be a thing that works.
We were as skeptical as you’d be if you heard Megadeth was merging in a supergroup with The Wiggles. The Calm Diet! we whooped. Maintaining the cat’s emotional balance! We cackled.
And then we fed. We watched. They calmed.
I’m the first to admit that we may well be seeing what we’re looking for. There’s no pure scientific way to measure whether or not cats are calmer. But we’re becoming believers.
The wizards behind the Calm Diet state that it’s “formulated to support cats in situations associated with stress and anxiety.” Well, steal my socks and call me Feetsie if that doesn’t describe a situation called Being Alive for Natalie. Even when she sleeps, our little orange enigma has one ear alert to action, anxious and excited and all atwitter. Some cats (and humans, present company included) are just more prone to experience life in full, oft-overwhelming color. Nat’s not a bad cat (as if there were such a thing) – she’s just exquisitely sensitive. And, when it all gets to be too much, instead of burrowing under a blanket or watching a Downton Abbey marathon, she works it out by reenacting There Will Be Blood.
Sometimes we all need a little help getting calm…and if that help tastes good and brings a reprieve from Prozac, I know one little Kentucky volcano who’s ready to eat up.
*Be it known: AutoCorrect accepts “dunderheads” as a word, but not “dunderheaded.” Just like a thesis adviser.
**I know I don’t really need to tell you this, but be it known that neither I nor Tabby’s Place are officially endorsing the Calm Diet. Maybe the Calm Diet will work for you, but maybe it will turn your cat into a giant naked mole rat. And that would be sad. So please, if your cat is a Natalie-flavor maniac, talk to your vet/behaviorist/exorcist, OK?