Black Cat wearing e-collar, sitting on a dark grey couch. Portions of his body and paws are shaved.

Lessons on Adaptability from My Cat

My cat, Shadow, had surgery a week ago. His recovery needs were straightforward, to rest and wear an e-collar (aka cone) until his stitches heal. This was a new area of feline care for me; I could plan, but would reality match up?

A spare room fit all the recovery criteria set out by our veterinarian: we could keep him separate from our other resident cat, the furniture minimized jumping, and it was a space he’d relaxed in before.

Our first hours home proved my planning wasn’t helping him recover. I hadn’t expected him to do more than curl up and nap for his first few days. Additionally, I didn’t think he’d want to walk around much at all.

Immediately it was apparent that he was distressed to find himself in that room. He would come and check on me and then pursue his own goal which I kept trying to thwart. With feline agility, he rid himself of the cone multiple times as he worked to unlock the door. Yes, he succeeded. This increased my own stress as I tried to figure out a new solution while trying to keep an eye on his stitches.

Since he was determined, I cautiously allowed him to explore the house on his own terms. It seemed he needed to verify that it was indeed his entire house, not only one room. After a short wander, he curled up content in a favorite spot, a closet.

His nap allowed me to pause and work out how to convert the space he chose into his recovery room. It was quick work to move things around and set them up for him. As he was calm, I was able to reintroduce the e-collar (here are some tips) and he’s worn it since without distress.

What was likely the largest issue with the space I first chose? Cats find comfort in dark enclosed spaces; it’s why you often find them hiding under furniture or in boxes. I created a temporary hiding spot, and I think he knew it wasn’t one that would stay the same. The closet is one he could trust.

One unexpected benefit to his choice in recovery space means we can snuggle together at night. It’s helped both his recovery and mine.

Three lessons on adaptability

  1. Plan with the information you have at the time. More (and possibly contradictory) information will arrive as circumstances evolve. That’s normal!
  2. Pause. Unless in a life-threatening situation, a few minutes of reflection will not cause harm and will help you find a better solution than one found under extreme stress.
  3. Re-evaluate! If something isn’t working, it doesn’t mean you failed, your information has changed.
Black Cat wearing e-collar, sitting on a dark grey couch. Portions of his body and paws are shaved.