An FES Certification Program case study presented by practitioner
Editor’s Note: This case report has been edited for web presentation.
Nila’s primary caretaker is her owner, Genevieve, and Geni’s entire family: Jaime, Tara and Chris. She was adopted from a shelter as Geni’s own pet. The family lives together in a single home. Genevieve is now in college, and comes home often on weekends to visit family and friends and to see her beloved cat.
Nila was a rescue from Trenton, New Jersey, brought home at about 6 weeks of age. She was adopted along with another kitten, Chuckie, from a different litter, who spent time in the same cage at the rescue shelter. When she came into the home, she and Chuckie shared a blanket, and had each other, as they had already bonded.
Nila’s human family treats animals as if they have the exact same rights as human beings. They are vegetarians, and speak to and care for their pets like children. Nila has led a peaceful and comfortable life up until the move to California. There, she lived for one year in a small ranch house with a tiny fenced in area and deck space, then moved to a larger house without the possibility of fencing in the countryside of Sonoma County. In the beginning she was kept inside, then let onto the deck, then eventually outside during the afternoon hours, her family outside with her. Then eventually, she and Chuckie were allowed free range in the open spaces of vineyards and stable areas. A female kitten had joined the family. Nila lives with an animal family of two other cats. The open spaces are open as well to other animals, wild and domestic, such as neighborhood cats and dogs, wild animals like wildcats, wild boar, jack rabbits, coyotes, gophers, raccoons, turkeys, etc.
Nila at first went out often. Then after some turf battles with raccoons during the rainy season, she started to stay indoors more and more often. She had always been high strung (a “nervous Nelly”) and had always enjoyed the outdoors and was a good hunter. Nila now has free range over the three-level house, and can go outside whenever she wants to, except at night. She has food and water available, and comfortable places to sit and sleep. She is welcome on everyone’s bed and anywhere in the house.
Nila is Geni’s pet and she is very loved. Nila is petted, talked to, played with, and fed by all members of the family. A younger cat came into the family, just after the move, who adores Genevieve, Nila’s owner, so Jaime has tried to show Nila great affection to make up for feelings of jealousy. Nila is fearful of strange people. She is never seen when company arrives.
The prevailing emotional tone is one of everyday family life with teen-agers; some stress, some joy, some periods of study, but mostly quiet. There is a rhythm to the day.
Nila experienced a major life change when she and her family moved from a fenced-in suburban shaded yard in New Jersey to a small house, and then a larger house with a great expanse of wild outdoor space. After some outdoor conflict, she discontinued going outside, and began eating a great deal, often waiting for the other cats to go out, finishing off their plates, and then going to the basement and throwing up the food. She also began sleeping most of the time.
Nila’s new behavior of eating everything in sight and then throwing up, and also of not going voluntarily outside was not seen before the move. Now, the other cats chased her, even though she was much older and larger than the youngest female cat. She emoted a sense of weary, frightened, victim-hood, and I believe the other animals were drawn into this projection.
Primary physical problems were weight gain and throwing up.
Primary soul challenges were kitty depression, perhaps PTSD from moving and finding herself attacked by wild animals she previously did not know existed. She did not seem to find joy in life, only in food. She had a lot of change to deal with, and not much support for doing so, as the entire family was also facing the changes she was facing.
Presenting symptoms for her were: (1) overeating and then throwing up (kitty bulimia) (2) weight gain (3) sleeping all day in lieu of playing outside (4) loss of interest in life, generally (5) becoming more and more timid and hiding. Genevieve, her owner, was most interested in helping her to heal from: first, her throwing up, then improving her overall health, and also alleviating as much as possible her level of unhappiness.
Geni and I also discussed a belief that Nila was feeling in many ways the same as we were. It was also possible that Nila, being super-sensitive herself, was reflecting elements of her owners’ feelings and behaviors. California was strange, alien and difficult. Country living was weird and scary at first. It was like living on Mars for all family members. Then the grandmothers on each side died. So the family felt generally even more ungrounded. Food was a support and comfort to all the family members. Also the stress of high school and freshman year were a lot for Nila’s main owner to deal with. Perhaps Nila was mirroring some of the owner’s traits (in the sense that a familiar is psychically/energetically/emotionally linked to her/his human.)
Goals for Nila: alleviate digestive difficulties and weight issues, foster more happiness and feeling of being loved, reduce fear and nervousness, more comfort in the outdoor world
• Voluntarily get outside in nature and for exercise and for using her senses, being part of the natural world
Ways of supporting Nila toward these goals also included:
Genevieve remembered that Nila used to roll in the Chamomile back east, and that Genevieve has also made Chamomile tea and used it as a medicinal herb when she has had a nervous stomach and found it helpful. Since Genevieve, Nila’s owner, had such positive feelings and memories about Chamomile, I decided to start with it.
Also, Geni’s first objective was to see if we could get Nila to stop throwing up so much. We took her to the vet, and had her checked out, but they did not find anything abnormal. They said that cats, like humans, get upset and can have eating disorders.
Nila seemed to be emotionally upset, in the realm of PTSD from the move and the interfacing with wild animals in her own yard. We wanted her to feel noticed and supported and loved, so she could begin to let go of her state of anxiety, and subsequent depression.
The food plates were picked up at breakfast, and Nila was talked to and given her flower essences. Her dry food during the day and night was cut back. She seemed skittish. Sometimes when put outside, she hissed and growled and tried to scratch. She seemed to be sleeping the same.
Not much change in Nila was noticed. It was decided it would be best not to chase Nila to go outside, or force her, but try to invite her to go out.
It was then decided to add Mimulus to Nila’s formula, and try to gently get her to go outside. Also, she would be brushed every week as she really loved it; it is one kind of affection she will accept; it is soothing to her, and it was thought that the removal of loose hair could help her upset stomach feel better, and there would be less fur in Nila’s stomach after her self-grooming.
A marked difference in the lack of throwing up on Nila’s part was noticed; Nila was not throwing up every morning, and rarely if that.
Going outside even for just a short period of time was still a goal. A shady place on the deck was made for Nila so she could have a time in the midday (when it was warm) when the screen door was left open to see if she would go out on the deck.
Nila appeared to look thinner, though she would not allow anyone to weigh her. All the cats’ food was still being picked up after meals, so it wasn’t possible to determine whether she had kicked the habit of eating everything or not.
She began going out on the deck somewhat regularly during the mid-morning, on nice days. She sat and looked out over the yard. On nice evenings with a person sitting on the front porch, Nila would go out and occasionally go off into the garden. When people went inside, Nila went in also.
Nila began going outside every evening when the family went for walks. She ventured down the long driveway. She also went outside and sat on the porch, in the driveway, or even walked down it, went into the garden, or even across the driveway into the tall grass. She even went around the back of the house a few times. She continued to go out on the deck in the mornings.
While, she still tried to eat the other cats’ food, sometimes she skipped it. She also seemed to be fighting off her cat family attackers better. She laid on her back, growled and scratched.
It was decided to add Pink Yarrow to Nila’s mix of flower essences to see if the emotions of the people in her life were flooding her and if that would help her more with her own personal food addiction.
Geni said, “Nila is amazing. I saw her go all the way down the driveway to the road, cross the road to go and pick on our neighbor’s cat!” This was a total personality transformation; Nila went out every evening to walk on the driveway, went out into the meadow to hunt and explore, as well as around to the back of the house. She hadn’t thrown up at all; at that point, not once in two months.
Nila was observed playing one-up-man-ship with the other female cat in her cat family. Before, she would be intimidated and yield her favorite spot. Now, when Sophia took Nila’s spot, Nila curled up in one of Sophia’s favorite hang-outs. Nila fights off the other cats she used to run from. She has become assertive.
Jaime Stover Schmitt is the founding director of Spanda®:The Yoga of Movement, offering yoga, movement, and yoga-based therapy classes, private sessions, and teacher/practitioner trainings internationally. Dr. Schmitt publishes the Journal of Authentic Movement & Somatic Inquiry, and is the author of Every Woman’s Yoga (Prima/Random House), and the reprint Yoga for Pregnancy (Himalayan Institute.)
Dr. Schmitt was the Russell Conwell fellow at Temple University while earning her doctoral degree in education. She is certified in Laban Movement Analysis by the Laban Institute of Movement Studies, and is also certified as a Somatic Movement Educator, and an Infant Developmental Movement Educator, by the School for Body-Mind Centering®. Other hands-on training includes Swedish Massage, Shiatsu-Amma, Reiki, and Alexander Technique. Dr. Schmitt hosts Radical Healing groups, based on her close work with Rudolph Ballentine, M.D., Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, Ph.D., and others, in which participants explore flower essences along with complementary natural healing and soul journeying methods.
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