Can cats have Stockholm Syndrome? I recently wrote about our eldest cat, Dusty, having a biopsy and convalescing inside our home. He’s an outdoor (born feral) cat and we expected ructions when we kept him indoors for a couple of nights, but he appeared to cope well with his confinement.
He’s an affectionate cat — but on his own terms. He doesn’t like anyone to pick him up, and won’t normally sit on a lap. But when the mood takes him, Dusty will come around if we’re outside, and rub his head on our legs to ask for a stroke.
During his weekend indoors, Dusty frequently nuzzled against us and we rewarded him with the fuss he seemed to want. Once, he even jumped onto the sofa and rested his front legs on my thigh and gazed at me with his gorgeous blue eyes. It made my heart flutter: was he a convert to lap life at last?
Alas, all changed when his confinement was over. For around a week, he ran off whenever he saw us approaching. Dusty — who waited patiently with the others for breakfast and dinner — would scuttle away when he saw us coming. Once we were at a safe distance away again, he’d return for his food.
This behaviour seemed in such contrast to the way he’d been when he was in the house. It made me wonder whether cats suffer from Stockholm Syndrome — the psychological response when hostages bond with their captors. Anyone know?
Diagnosis & Treatment
The biopsy results weren’t good: Dusty has a cancerous tumour in his nose: However, our vet Joana, explained a relatively new treatment — electro-chemotherapy — to remove these tumours (common in sun-loving white cats). She showed us photos of cats that had undergone this, and appeared positive about the outcome for Dusty, who is otherwise a healthy cat.
The procedure involves the use of specialist equipment to remove the tumour, and one dose of chemotherapy, both on the same day. The equipment is based in Valencia, but comes over to the veterinary hospital Canis in Palma de Mallorca for one week each month. We were fortunate in the timing of the equipment’s next schedule arrival on the island and they gave Dusty an appointment for Wednesday 3rd February.
All well and good. There was just the simple matter of catching a wary Dusty to take him to Palma. After much discussion, we decided to attempt this on the Tuesday, so that we’d have another chance on the Wednesday morning if our first attempt failed.
When we went out in the early evening to feed the cats, Dusty was waiting. Was luck on our side? Err, no. He shot off as soon as he saw us and disappeared down into the undergrowth in our valley. Stress! How could we possibly catch him when he was super-wary of our intentions?
Within an hour, Dusty was back in the house with us. I’d found him down in the field, stropping his claws on the almond tree trunk that fell during the recent storm. I spoke softly and crept towards him and was able to grab the scruff of his neck and carry him indoors. Suffice to say, he wasn’t impressed.
His procedure went without a hitch the next day, although he didn’t enjoy the car journey to Palma. He wasn’t the only one. I’d sprayed his carrying case with Feliway in advance, ostensibly to calm him for the journey. If that was calm, what would he have been like without it?
Dusty spent the next couple of nights indoors, making himself at home. So much so that the sofa became a favourite place to sit. He treated us to head nuzzles, purring, and lap time.
Unfortunately, Pip didn’t appreciate our temporary house guest at all and practised her tiger growl whenever Dusty was in her vicinity. On Friday lunchtime we were able to let Dusty out again. I opened the front and back doors of the house, so he could choose his exit but, for a few minutes, it looked as though he was reluctant to leave.
Needless to say, since he returned to his natural, outdoor habitat, Dusty has made himself scarce whenever we’re around. We’re hoping he’ll forgive us soon — and that his treatment will ensure a full recovery.
In the meantime, I thought I’d share two of my favourite photos of Dusty as a cute kitten.
Jan Edwards Copyright 2021