I've been where he is, with an uncontrolled anxiety disorder, and I see so much of myself in him, in the way he reacts to things, the things that upset him. It's so shockingly similar. And I personally, even with amazing social support, even given an ideal environment, still require and always will require medication to manage my bipolar and my anxiety. I would never, ever deny myself that tool. I can't deny it to him, if he needs it, just because I feel guilty for not being able to help him enough. That's selfish and cruel, and ridiculous.
I keep thinking of how cats' brains are so much like ours, how their thought processes are so similar, and I have seen that time and again with Smooch. More than any other cat I've had, he's quite human. More than that, he and I are quite alike. I had no way of knowing this when I adopted him, but it's true. The vet said he was lucky he got me in particular. I think he could have gotten luckier -- someone with more money, with fewer "off" days -- but I do see that I am in a unique position to understand where he's coming from, so I'm trying to make that work for us.
I love him so, so much. Even when he's being a bully and a piss goblin. He doesn't WANT to do these things, I can SEE and FEEL that he doesn't, he just has no other tools in his tool kit, and the urge is overwhelming to him. He HAS to chase. He HAS to mark. He HAS to pick a fight. He HAS to enforce the rules on the others.
And he hates it.
When I get up to pick him up and take him away from one of the other cats he's been harassing, I can feel how he is tense all through his forequarters, and hear him breathing so hard and so rough. And when I doctored his ear after Raleigh gave him a (well-deserved, small but bloody) scratch, he made a very human grunt of pain, but didn't shy away from ME or fight ME. He lets me doctor his eye when it hurts him so much from the ocular herpes, and he never bites or scratches.
For pity's sake, a few hours ago, I asked him to follow me into the kitchen so I could clean his face and eye, medicate his eye, and pill him. He followed me, purring, even though he KNEW that's what was going to happen and he hates all that. He came with me to the fridge to get his eye medicine and looked inside, like he always does. He squirmed a little but behaved himself for the gross/ouchy part. His reward? One nasty cat treat with a pill inside it. He was happy with just that. Didn't fuss or fight at all. He is a good cat.
He is a fundamentally gentle cat, driven to distraction by an unchecked mental issue. He has had such a hard time, he has been so unhappy, and it has been breaking my heart.
So I am trying hard not to see the meds as a failure, but as a success -- recognizing when a tool is needed, and using it.
He took his first does of his new medication yesterday and slept and slept and slept. I gave him his second dose a few hours ago, and he is sleeping again. But he can be roused, his ears twitch if I play with them, he still bats at my fingers to play and still pushes me away if he doesn't want to be held and purrs if he does, so he's perfectly fine. He's not even feeling unwell, just sleepy. Hopefully he will continue to do well and the somnolence will retreat.
We have other meds we can try, if this fails. And if that fails, I will investigate overhauling south rooms of the house so he can live solo, and see if we can afford that. It wouldn't take much, just a new door and some different flooring. Rehoming him responsibly but remaining involved in his care and responsible for his vet care through that third party is the very last thing I want to do, but I am pretty confident it won't come to that if we can just find a medication that works for him.
Etrigan, by the way, is doing VERY well. He's pushy and plays rough, but he's also a very friendly, charismatic cat and visibly WANTS to be on good terms with the others. There is no aggression in him or mean-spiritedness, he just doesn't understand he's not a tiny kitten anymore and cannot play the way a tiny kitten plays. He is also an oaf and doesn't always understand when he is making the others uncomfortable. If I tell him to lay off and provide him an alternative activity, he always chooses not to re-engage. He and Raleigh now "kiss" when they walk past each other, investigate things together, and I often catch them briefly grooming each others' ears and shoulders . . . before one of them gently baps the other. They play chase . . . and take turns starting it. It still often ends in one of them forgetting his strength, so we have to call it off, but it's not on purpose, and is still a huge difference from where it was at the beginning.
The other cats, Sid and Harley, are very shy and remain in the master bed/bath combo because Smooch is so overbearing and harassing, but if we can get that under control we can work on getting them all to play nice. Or at least ignore each other.
I want this to work out. I never intended to wind up with FIVE CATS but telling my GF to rehome hers is just as much a non-option as rehoming mine just because new boys came along. I love them ALL. I strive to treat them all with the same care, barring insulting Etrigan with much greater frequency.
But if I'm honest, I especially love my smelly cryptid man.