5 Signs Your Cat is Damaging Your Mental Health

So apt that ‘House of Cards’ by Radiohead is playing in the background.

Email of 20 May, 2010


I’m writing because you live outside Paris and we have come to the sad conclusion that our beloved Taupo pussy cat is no longer happy living in a Paris apartment and even though we would love to live somewhere with a garden ourselves we can’t see that happening for a while…. so we need to find a happy home for Taupo and I thought to write to you as you might have a neighbour (or even yourself) who could take her….

Taupo is 4 years old and we were really stupid when we got her because she was a very young kitten — kind of skittish — we had just moved into our apartment and still had concrete floors, no kitchen, no walls painted… A hell of a mess really. She lived through constant DIY weekends all her youth plus co-habitated with Cleopatra-eyed half-sister Krakatoa (a cat from another litter we got at the same time). It looked like Taupo & Kraki loved each other — they were always play-fighting and curled up among the power tools, but in reality Kraki was the clever one and Taupo was keen on peace & calm & being Zen & living for the moment. Kraki would plan her day. Taupo just slept through hers.

Anyway we all thought this was working, but then we had Beatrice (our child, not another cat) in Sept 2007 and Kraki pushed the emergency exit button. She started peeing on the couch & our bed daily — and cleverly sneaking into Bea’s cot. Taupo was oblivious. I couldn’t handle this at all so we begged MG’s parents to take Kraki for a ‘vacances’ which has ended up permanent — she is now very happily living in Normandy, chasing birds, peeing outside, purring, sleeping in the garage instead of in the bed with us above my head. Sure I missed her, but I was happy to see her happy.

When Krakatoa departed, Taupo was at a bit of a loss. She started thinking that MG was her subordinate and would wake up at 5:00 a.m. to claw him until he escorted her down to the kitchen to eat cat biscuits. It wasn’t until July 2009 when the vet told me this was screwing up Taupo’s mind that we figured out we’d better change the sleeping arrangements and now Taupo sleeps in the lounge all night.

She cried the first few nights but she’s happy in there.

However, she still treats MG as an intruder, or subordinate, or just scratch pad. She is lovely with me and has NEVER scratched Beatrice, but if MG talks or looks at Taupo sideways she claws him.

We’ve tried Cat Prozac, calming homeopathics, we have those pheromone diffusers plugged in, we put up scratch pads, we give her special sleeping areas (including IKEA throne), we make sure her litter’s cleaned everyday, we even consulted a cat psychologist, but Taupo does not like this space when MG is in it.

After talking through our problems again with our vet, he agrees the only thing for Taupo is a place with a garden that she can go out and in. It’s true that within a day when she goes to Normandy, she is not aggressive and she happily sleeps in a garage and stares at butterflies and birds all day. We can’t push another cat onto MG’s parents, as Taupo & Kraki hiss at each other (or, well, Taupo hisses and makes a big thing) so she would be better as a solo pet somewhere with a balcony or garden or outside she can have access to.

If you know anyone who could take her we would be eternally grateful and if we can ever move to the Parisian suburbs with a garden we would take her back ourselves. I don’t want to take her to the SPA where she will end up dead. Or dump her in the Bois de Boulogne as MG ‘jokes’.

Thanks for reading the novel above.
Here’s a picture.
PS: she is tattooed, has a passport, has all her vaccinations, was neutered of course and eats only cat biscuits and water.

Eternally grateful,

You can see she’s on the edge here, curled up under our child’s rocking horse like it’s her toy.

Emailed replies:

Hi Liz,

Taupo looks lovely and the girls would love another cat, we have a cat already but he lives outside. With the baby, etc. and the fact that he is not house trained he never comes inside. I would love to take your cat and will think about it but as we recently adopted two puppies (two weeks ago) to join our existing family of pets (a sweet, big collie ‘Dahlia’ and our ageing little Jack Russell ‘Cherry’ with our two petites souris (mice) can’t remember their names! Would it be too much of a shock for Taupo? But what I will do is ask around the neighbourhood. Is not easy with family pets!

Lets try and make the Friday of the 11th June for a lunch or coffee.

Will get back to you about Taupo,


Hi J,

Thanks — you are very sweet to ask around — I think puppies and Dahlia and Cherry (how’s she doing?) might be a bit too much for Taupo’s nerves — I’d love to have lunch on Friday 11 June. It’ll be lovely to see you.
Thanks for writing!
Lizzie x

WHAT a story! I laughed — I cried. Poor Taupo (poor MG…) I’m afraid I also live in an apartment in Paris, with my own orange cat, Twinkie, so I’m afraid I can’t take Taupo on as well, and Taupo must have a garden and a tree to dig claws into ….Bises D

Hi D!

So kind of you to write… I thought you’d get a giggle out of Taupo’s story, I fear we are turning into a reality TV show here… and when I have a pathological need for everyone to just ‘get along’ it adds another dimension! I think Taupo has come into our lives to tell us something. Like, never name a cat after history’s 3rd biggest volcanic explosion. I do love her though.

Anyway I hope you & Twinkie (lovely name) are doing great. It’s lovely to touch base, I’ve been missing practically all the literary salons recently! Time for salons is a luxury!
Bises, Lizzie xx

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Update March 16, 2016

I just found this e-mail chain yesterday. I reread it and cringed at how we let that cat destroy our sleep and our sanity. We kept Taupo another year after this e-mail cry for help. My husband took up Bikram yoga to avoid turning into a murderous psychopath. Our toddler delayed walking until 18 months — I think to stay “on the level” — on all fours mirroring that cat. I accidentally gave Taupo an electric shock one afternoon and still bear the long deep scar her back claws gouged into my forearm — it looked like a failed suicide attempt.

Eventually, we begged MG’s parents to take Taupo. They did because they are the nicest family members you could imagine — no judgment, just helping out. Taupo swiftly turned normal and far less aggressive. Mice were chased, birds were tracked with her yellow eyes, the garage saw two sleeping cats tucked among paint cans and slowly-ripening kiwifruit. All was well.

Taupo then wandered off and found some other people to fawn over her. Or maybe it was a hit and run accident. So, that was the end of Taupo. We moved out of Paris to a village with a garden so Krakatoa came back and now she has a little friend — Goldy, who was abandoned by somebody and came crying at our door.

We all co-habitate fine because the cats have enough space and the power tools aren’t used so often here. But what we endured with Taupo was way too much. My husband should never have been clawed every morning at 5:00 a.m. Our toddler should have been free to stand upright and take first steps. Angèle, our cleaning lady shouldn’t have been terrified to get out the vacuum with those unblinking yellow eyes watching her every move. Visitors should not have been scared to move their suitcase about at the risk of a furry white arm appearing from under the bed with claws outstretched.

Sometimes we go down a path and once we’re on it, it’s hard to see that it’s literally making us insane or severely impairing our ability to function normally.

These are the 5 Signs that your cat is damaging your mental health:

  • you live in fear
  • your sleep is destroyed
  • your vet keeps trying to have an intervention about it but you won’t listen
  • you spend more on cat Prozac and Feliway than you do on new clothes or treats for humans
  • you ask a cat psychologist to come round

Any 3 — okay, 2 — of these signs going on at your place? Figure out a solution that involves the cat no longer living with you. Seriously.

These days I try to look from the outside to see if stuff I’m doing or committing to is “Taupo.” It’s become my codeword for insanity-making. If people make me feel ugh after seeing them — they’re just too “Taupo” for me to spend time with. If people I want to work for or collaborate with exhibit certain behaviors, they go on a little “Taupo” list to nicely back away from. I ask myself, “Is this Taupo?” Or even, “Am I getting a little Taupo about that?”

I know this isn’t the usual “cat story” — about how darn cute they are, or how having a cat saved a life, or reduced stress so much that you could flush your high blood pressure pills down the toilet. It’s kind of the opposite sort of story. I can write another story about how Goldy is the sweetest cat I’ve ever met and I want to assure you I’ve had about a dozen cats so far and I stick the distance, even with the duds. Taupo was with us for 5 years.

They just weren’t good times for us. Or her. She couldn’t articulate her inner turmoil — hence the clawing. No amount of Feliway was going to help.

I guess I’m writing this because it just got so insane and that e-mail cry for help above is so insane on my part — and maybe you’ve been in a similar insane situation. If you have, tell me about it in the comments…