Time for a true story. It’s weird enough that you might not believe it’s true but it is. My two cats are fast approaching 11. For years, Begley seemed more conscious of what was going on with me physically but it was when Ciara started paying attention that things got weird. That was about three and a half years ago. It started with purring. Ciara has various purrs The one she does on my lap acts as her “I love you” purr. Then there’s her “pay attention to me” purr and her “thank you” purr and probably various other messages I’ve failed, in my hopeless human way, to decipher. She has one full throttle, deliberate communication purr that she uses to suit various occasions.
When she started lying against my lower back at night, instead of my legs, I didn’t think much of it. She would purr her super charged purr and I’d get to sleep faster than I would without a feline hot pack purring away. It hadn’t occurred to me this might be deliberate until one afternoon I was lying close to the edge of the bed. There wasn’t enough room for her to lie down but there was enough room for her to walk up and down. She did that and then suddenly stopped. She pressed her paw against my back – on the most painful part of my mid back, the part where the pain is so deep and grinding that it makes my teeth ache (I’ve since learned three of the joints there are damaged). She picked out the hot spot. I don’t know how. Maybe it was literally a hot spot, although I get so cold that it’s hard to see how she would be able to tell that through three layers of clothing. From then on, she’d come to bed at night, walk up and down behind me and then settle against the most painful part, wherever that might be, purring her full throttle purr (which I suspect is the same purr cats use to resuscitate kittens when their hearts stop) . It helps. I don’t know whether there’s a ‘proper’ medical reason or if it’s just the warmth and the comfort of knowing she’s there. It doesn’t matter. She’s a special cat. I’ve met someone else through the pain clinic whose cat does the same thing. She finds the spot that hurts most and then does the same purr against it.
In October I had a procedure to kill the nerves running into the three damaged thoracic joints. Once I recovered, Ciara started doing something new. Both of my shoulders probably have rotator cuff damage. One night, after I switched the light out, Ciara hopped on top of me, patted around again and then started kneading the right shoulder socket. She was very precise. I didn’t even know Ciara was capable of kneading with her claws retracted! It helped. It’s almost always the right shoulder because I always start the night lying on my left side. Even though I’m right handed, my osteopath could tell which shoulder Ciara’s been “treating” because it’s been in better shape than the left since she started.
Then it got stranger. This beggars belief. My sacroiliac joints (where the dimples in your lower back are) are unstable and I often get pain and problems walking from them. I use various pilates exercises to open them up. The other week, after she’d worked on my shoulder she walked down my side, stopping and starting until she got to exactly where she wanted to be and then lay down on top of me. I couldn’t believe it but I could feel my SI joints open up. She wasn’t purring, just gently using her body as a lever. All I could think was “how the hell can she know so much about the mechanics of the human body?” She only does it on days when the SI joints are actually giving me trouble. I’ve done pilates for eight years, studied human mechanics in A level physics, spent days of my life reading up on my body and my cat just came along and did that!
She didn’t stop there though. Before surgery on my lower back I had sciatica a lot. Afterwards, once that was gone, I realised I also had piriformis problems, particularly on the right. The effect is very much like sciatica. All the muscles are unbalanced throughout that area and my gluts are knotted and spasmy most of the time (yep, they’re a pain in the ass). I do stretch the muscles but it doesn’t usually help much. Ciara, on the other hand is a bloody genius. By moving a bit further down my leg from where she lay before to open the SI, she can unknot the glut.
Ciara has always had quite a type A personality. She doesn’t relax in the was Begley does. He’s a floppy ragdoll of a cat. Ciara tends to hold more tension in her muscles. In that, she’s just like me. I’m thrilled to be able to report that, since she became a feline osteopath, she feels more relaxed. Before, when she sat on my lap, she always felt a bit like a bowling ball, even when she seemed happy. Now, she feels looser (she’s on my lap right now), more Begley-like so it seems like she’s happy with what she’s doing. She’s a remarkable cat. The only problem with all of this is that she seems to expect me to treat her differently when it comes to the rules on eating. Since she started the manipulation, she’s taken to sitting on the arm of the sofa while I eat, pushing at me, and I can’t leave any plate for a second. My osteopath thinks maybe she expects payment (well, he would!) but I think she’s thinking of herself as more equal to me. Still, apparently my secretary’s cat just started doing the same thing about food without any of the osteopathy so I’m definitely better off than her.
(see also Cats are good for you update)