This is Lilo.
I found her in the parking lot when she was a scrawny kitten of about three months old. She was darting back and forth under the cars, chasing a ground squirrel.
The annual leases in the neighboring apartment complex had just let up, so my best guess was that someone dumped her when they moved. I put up signs that she had been found and let the Humane Society know that an adorable black kitten had been found, but no one ever claimed her.
Lilo is charming and cute. She chirps like a dragon-bird when she’s excited. She gets so excited at meal times that, left to her own devices, all her rubbing against my legs and purring in my face and trying to help me pour the food in the bowl would make it difficult to feed her. So when she was still young, I ended up training her to sit on top of her scratching post as I get her food ready. She continues to do that (usually without prompting) to this day:
Also, she likes to wrap herself in blankets and make herself into kitty burrito filling.
If you don’t think that’s cute, I have to wonder if you hate joy and rainbows, too.
Lilo is practically the perfect companion, as you can see.
There’s just one problem. Her appetite isn’t limited to food. She also likes to eat:
But most of all, she loves socks. If she has a choice, she prefers wool. And fancy that, so do I.
To be clear, she actually eats – as in chews up, swallows, and digests – the fabric she tears off. I suppose she’s like me and hates seeing things go to waste. If she’s killed the fabric, she might as well eat it!
When she was a kitten, my old vet thought it might be abandonment anxiety and that she’d eventually get over it.
It did start to get better, but that could be because I no longer leave dirty clothes on the floor, store all my couch pillows inside the ottoman/coffeetable, keep my sewing behind a closed door, and don’t let her anywhere near my bed unattended (which usually works, though last month I woke up to the sound of someone chewing on my pillowcase – hint: it wasn’t me).
I also grow lots of edible houseplants and wheatgrass so she always has something acceptable to chew.
But since my other cat died a few months ago, and a very persistent outdoor cat has begun making daily visits to the kitchen window despite Lilo’s vociferous protests, she’s been starting to eat types of fabric that were previously safe from her sharp little teeth – like the tea towel above.
There are a lot of theories about why some cats do this: they were weaned too early, they didn’t stay with their litter long enough, they have a screw loose in their heads. Wool-eating (as it’s apparently called in veterinary parlance) is classified as a compulsive anxiety disorder, like OCD in humans.
Maybe that’s why she found me in the parking lot that day long ago. I know all about compulsive anxiety disorders! (If anyone who knew me in fourth grade through middle school reads this and had not figured that out yet – frankly, I’m shocked, given how proud I was of my hand-washing routine.)
My current vet and I have talked about whether Lilo should go on anti-anxiety meds, because if she keeps this up she could end up with an intestinal obstruction – and given her affinity for polyester fleece, it’s sort of surprising she hasn’t had one yet.
Last week after discovering the tea towel (and finally admitting that she’s been growing increasingly neurotic for months in some of her other behaviors as well), I called the vet to make an appointment.
We went today. She got a physical and her blood drawn to rule out hormonal problems and tumors. In a few days, the vet will call with his recommendations.
The good news is that he can get anti-anxiety meds in beef-liver flavor. So in the likely event that she needs them, I shouldn’t have any problem giving them to her. She was always jealous of my other cat when he would get his beef-liver flavored medicine.
The only thing that Lilo would enjoy more than that is, well, wool.
Update Feb. 14, 2016: Since writing this blog, Lilo has started medication for compulsive behavior and is doing a lot better, though I still need to keep socks and pillowcases away from her. This month, she was featured in an essay I wrote for the Chicken Soup for the Soul book My Very Good Very Bad Cat, which you can find out more about here.