Perhaps you have heard the term Geographical Cure. It is most often used when people who are going through difficulties just up and move to start over. More times than not, this cure is not a cure…just a new view of a familiar problem. The real healing takes place staying put and working through the problem… or so I thought.
There are times when a geographical change is really needed in order to find the cure. This is true for not only humans but fur children as well.
Our cat Molly came to us 5 years ago. Our first cat, Madeline needed a friend. I found Molly at the Humane Society. Her history was clear: she was born of a feral mother in the custody of human foster parents who took her mom in and were with her when her kittens were born. The foster parent’s task is to socialize the kitty babies until they were eight weeks old, to get them accustomed to humans. At the eight-week mark, mother and babies were brought back to the center to be adopted out.
I knew this role well as I had been an occasional SPCA foster mom. When I saw Molly, I was smitten. At the time, her name was, “Little Bear,” and she had the most adorable face. It was round and two toned, divided equally. One side was jet black and the other calico. It was as if someone had drawn a line down the center of her face.
Molly was skittish from the get-go. I imagined, although her human family had tried their best to get her to like people, her feral mom must have whispered in her ear, “Don’t trust anyone who walks on two feet.” She spent her first weeks under the sofa in my office. Madeline would come in to try to get her to play, but Molly was scared and would not come out. Eventually, she caught on that the house was her new world. We moved her food and litter box downstairs to entice her out of my office. I became the only one she would let touch her, although I could only pat her when she came to me and never pick her up.
She decided her best place to be was in my bedroom under my bed. We would see her from time to time when she emerged, but if we had guests in the house, well, just forget it. People didn’t believe we had another cat. We gave her the nickname, “Stealth Kitty.
Madeline is very social. She kept pestering Molly to play and finally we began to see them both run all over the house. Upstairs, downstairs, on the porch, up the cat latter. I was so happy to see Molly play, or so I thought. Molly was terrified of any thing new. The thought of putting her into a carrying case to take her to the veterinarian – well, it was just never going to happen. Yes, she was that bad. The trauma of the kennel would be too much for her, so we never brought her for any check ups. We reckoned, she was an indoor cat… what sickness could she really get?
But then…the reality of selling our house and living in a van hit us. What would we do with our fur kids? Take them with us of course. I mean they were our family. Rick insulated the van extra good to be able to keep the warmth in during winter and keep the warmth out during the summer. We devised a cooling system so the cats would not roast in the vehicle when we were gone. Raskin, our dog was never a concern as she is a service animal and can go anywhere with us. It was just the cats that needed to stay cool.
As the summer moved on, our friend Carol, who had lost her beloved dog a few weeks earlier said she would love to take the cats for us. She was lonely and would give them a good home. Rick and I talked about it, and although the thought of them not coming with us made us sad, we knew it would be for the best to move to Carol’s. I explained to Carol she must take both of them, as they are buddies and she agreed. I didn’t want them separated.
Getting them there, Madeline got sick on the drive. Molly…although we had a heck of a time getting her in the kennel, did not. Madeline did well from the moment she arrived. Molly did not. She had difficulties adjusting, as I knew she would. They stayed the rest of the summer. Every week I would visit Carol and the kids. Madeline always came over to see me, Molly stayed hidden.
After two months, we had to bring them back home. Carol was heartbroken, but she has COPD, and it seemed to be getting worst. Her doctor said she was allergic to the cats. I came to get them, Madeline went right into the kennel, Molly (who I had not seen in two months) took over two hours to corner. Madeline was sick the whole drive, Molly was not. Back at home, Madeline was her usual lovable self, and Molly seemed her usual scaredy cat self, but stuck to me even more than before.
During their two months absence, Carol made a discovery. She said Madeline was being a bully to, Molly. Bully? Our cute little social kitty? I thought they were best buds. Carol explained, every time Molly tried to come out to see her new digs, Maddy would run after her and shoo her away. She didn’t like Molly coming into the living room and certainly did not allow her to sit on the scratching post seat that Maddy adored. Come to think of it, every time they ran around our house, it was Maddy pursuing Molly, never the other way around. Maddy was always the first to eat and the first to play with the toys. Perhaps she was right. Maybe Madeline’s bullying was why Molly was always afraid.
Around 2 PM the first night back home, I felt a kitty jump on top of me…it was Molly. She had become a love bug. She couldn’t get enough of me…she had changed. She became almost glued to me, following me around the house, sitting with me in the living room…rarely letting me out of her sight.
We realized it might not be best for the cats to travel with us. Maddy would get car sick and, being a social butterfly, we were afraid she would try to get out of the van. I began asking people if they would like a great cat (or cats), putting it out to the Universe that they needed a home. There were no takers.
One day Carol called and told me how much she missed Madeline. Her coughing had not got any better with the kitties gone and she wanted to try again, this time with only Madeline. I knew Maddy loved Carol so I brought her back the next day. She has been there ever since, happy as a purring clam. But, what about Molly?
With Madeline gone, no longer bullying her, Molly became more and more social. She is a crazy cat, but the one thing she likes more than anything in this world is me. She is nuts about me and I love her too. Since no one was coming forward to adopt her and my heart would be sad without her…we decided to take her with us. On the day of the move, I cornered her and put her in the kennel and brought her to the veterinarian to have her caught up on all her shots.
After moving into the van, her skittish self was barely seen for a day, but slowly she emerged and got used to her new surroundings. She began to explore her new home, loved where I put her bed because she could see out the back doors, but still be hidden. Every night when I came into the van and sat on the couch she would curl up next to me followed by a two-hour petting fest. She was in cat heaven, not having to share me with anyone.
The real challenge was ahead; how would she do while driving? We decided it would be too traumatic for her to always ride in a kennel, so we allowed her find her own place to nestle into. As long as she didn’t come up by the foot pedals, where ever she felt most comfortable would be fine.
Did I mention that our second floor comes down when we are driving? The roof lowers via hydraulics leaving a one-foot gap between the roof and the bed. This is where our little Princess decided to perch while traveling. She feels secure while gazing out the windshield and keeping an eye on Mom and Dad. She picked the perfect place. Looking at us from up high, I came up with a new nickname for her, “Sky-Moll.”
We’ve been gone now over three months and the most amazing thing has happened to this cat…she loves living in the van! It is almost like she has been waiting to live the life of an adventure cat. She seems to love to travel, and when the top is up she goes all over her domain, looking out the windows, playing with her toys and getting plenty of love, not only from me, her very favorite person; now she has a second favorite person – Rick. She is a very different cat than she once was. The “geographic cure” for her really was a cure. She needed to get away from someone (Madeline), who tried to control her life and dictate to her who she was and what she could do. No longer having to wait to eat, drink or use the facilities…she is the queen of her domain and loves it. The move has changed her for the better and we are thrilled to have our little buddy happy and content. She makes van living almost purr-fect.
What can we learn from this experience? Can the geographic cure be just what the doctor ordered for some of us? Yes it can. When I left my old life behind, even though I wasn’t thinking of it at the time, the geographic cure proved to be a blessing…changing where I lived, who I lived with and my surroundings proved to help me become the person I was meant to be. Both changing my life eight years ago and deciding to live in a van were not done in haste. It took lots of soul searching and planning and was well worth it.
All of us, Rick, Molly the Cat and I were taken out of our comfort zone, into a new life with a new perspective. It has been a blessing for all of us.
So, what about you? Would a geographic cure be good for you? Are you in a job where you are not valued? Are you not happy with where you live, your house, apartment or condo? Are you in relationship that doesn’t serve you? Maybe a new location, or doing something different, is what you need to find your true self and feel more alive. My advice is this: take your time, really think it through, but don’t get stuck in fear mode. Make a change, take a risk and you just might find the happiness you desire.
Just ask Molly…her true calling is Adventure Cat, and seeing the world through new windows… the windows of a van was just what she needed.
*** Footnote…Our dog Raskin, Rick’s service dog, developed Lyme disease the first night in the van. She was so sick I thought she had had a stroke. We rushed her to the vets to find out what was wrong. The Amherst Animal Hospital was wonderful. They discovered the problem quickly, Lyme Disease and she was put on medication, which helped right away. This disease affects her limbs and for a few days Raskin did not have the strength to jump into the van… so we brought her to stay inside at Carol’s. Thus began another love affair…Carol loving Raskin and Raskin loving Carol. Rick no longer needed her to be a service dog and we worried how she would be on the road in tight quarters. So the decision was made for her to live with Carol. Carol utilizes her highly trained service dog abilities…and, of course, she is a loving companion. An added bonus to this scenario is we get to see Raskin and Madeline when we come back to New Hampshire. The both have a great home where they are loved and Miss Molly gets to have all the attention. The Universe is good.