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Benjamin


Benjamin

My partner and I were looking for an indoor cat to share our home and were really pleased when we realised that our local rescue centre had a young, affectionate, beautiful white cat that needed an indoor home.

The first couple of days were uneventful with Benjamin hiding under our kitchen units not making a peep. On the third night he came out for some food and threw himself on us, head butting our chins, sitting on our laps, rubbing round our ankles and purring like a motorbike. We thought he was going to be delightful.

That night when we went to bed Benjamin started screaming and howling, he did this all night for the next three nights. We spoke to the re-homing centre who assured us this was normal behaviour in a re-homed cat and that it would pass, but after three days even they were worried and asked us to take him to a local vet. By the time of the appointment we had noticed that Benjamin was experiencing episodes, sometimes lasting for hours, where his back was rolling and twitching, he was running about desperately (sometimes crashing into things) his eyes were dilated and he would stare at the ceiling wildly, during these times he would be inconsolable.

The vet gave Benjamin a thorough health check and found nothing wrong. I went away and searched on the Internet for clues and it was then that I discovered a syndrome called feline hyperaesthesia. I asked the vet whether this could be what Benjamin was experiencing and she agreed it could be the cause of the signs that we were reporting so she dispensed some medication for Benjamin and suggested that we talk to a lady with a background in Animal Psychology. Although the medication and the advice from the animal psychologist helped to some extent Benjamin soon started to develop other behavioural signs, such as spending hours humping his bed, cushions and anything else soft. This went on for another two months and we even considered whether he needed to be put to sleep.

When Benjamin wasn't twitching (very rare) he would be affectionate and sweet and we didn't want to give up on him, but after many sleepless nights and tears were beginning to feel we had no choice. It was at this point that the animal psychologist suggested that we should talk to a vet working in behavioural medicine. She wrote to Sarah Heath at Behavioural Referrals on our behalf and, in view of the fact that we live in a totally different part of the country it was suggested that we should have a phone consultation. The rehoming centre agreed to pay the very reasonable fee which not only covered the phone consultation with Sarah but also gave us a year's worth of follow up support by phone or Email. We sent video clips of Benjamin's behaviour to Sarah along with lots of information that she requested about us, Benjamin and our home. Sarah confirmed that Benjamin was suffering from feline hyperaesthesia and she talked to our local vet who then prescribed appropriate medication. Sarah used the information that we had provided to formulate a treatment plan to go with the medication support. She told us where his food, water and cat tray should be and helped us to understand more about cat psychology and the best way of managing Benjamin in order to take away all potential sources of stress. Sarah reassured us that his humping was not sexual, but was self soothing and that this would stop when he was more relaxed. Sarah advised on routine, play and management of his episodes.

Within three days of his new routine, Benjamin stopped humping or crying at night and we were able to open up the rest of the flat to him. Within a month Benjamin was able to stop his own attacks, by sitting quietly on his own, or curled up against us for half an hour. It is a year since Behavioural Referrals started helping us, and Benjamin has never regressed to the problems he had during those first two months. Benjamin still has hyperaesthesia, and we have to manage his environment to make sure that he is protected from stressful situations. When he does have a twitchy period it only lasts for a few minutes, he sleeps all through the night (hogging most of our bed) and is the most affectionate cat I have ever met. He does sometimes have bad periods, and any kind of change in routine tends to set him off for a couple of weeks, but Sarah has helped throughout giving advice on managing these times and adjusting his medication when it is needed. We are so thankful to see Benjamin as the happy cat he now is and so grateful for all the help we received to get him there, BRVP literally saved his life.