By Jackson Galaxy
In 1995, Dr. Jean Hofve created Spirit Essences, our line of flower essence remedies. Actually, they contain much more than flowers! (See the FAQ at www.spiritessence.com for details.) We want to share how we create our formulas by taking you through the story of Safe Space, the remedy for spraying cats.
One of the wonderful aspects of the Spirit Essences remedies is the fact that they’re built from real life experiences. I do a behavior consultation, discuss the problem with Dr. Jean, and we create a remedy for that particular situation. Solutions for the problems we see over and over again wind up in our catalog.
A prime example of this process comes from a case of mine that birthed the remedy we call “Safe Space.” Back in 2002, I visited a new client, Nancy, and her cats Blue and Graham*. She had recently moved to a townhome, and since that time Blue was urinating seemingly everywhere. Graham did some hiding when they first moved in February, but it was now two months later and he had adjusted fairly well. I asked Nancy if she was absolutely sure it was all Blue’s doing—and she was. She had tried isolating each cat after cleaning up, and caught Blue shortly after the fact numerous times. We also made sure to rule out any medical cause for the problem before my visit. A urinalysis and blood test at her veterinarian’s office showed no cause for concern. This set the stage for my visit.
Upon my arrival, I used my blacklight wand to uncover any spots that Nancy might have missed—and judging by the smell, she most definitely missed quite a few! With the lights out, the pattern became very clear, very quickly. I refer to this particular urination pattern as “perimeter marking.” Blue had doused everything in the home that represented an “unsafe” boundary. This included the front and patio doors, sliding glass windows, baseboards near windows, and the windows themselves. No place in the center of the home or on walls that didn’t border the outdoors was marked. Nancy’s new home bordered a large swath of open space. Moreoever, she admitted to leaving a bowl of food out for neighborhood cats.
After explaining the pattern to Nancy so she could see that Blue’s actions weren’t random, I tried to get her to see the world from his eyes. He had always been the alpha cat in the home, always protecting Graham. Blue must have been witnessing the comings and goings of various critters right up to his very own doors and windows. Not only had his family just moved to a territory he had yet to feel secure about, but with neighborhood cats (and raccoons, foxes, and other “locals”) feasting on the plentiful food supply, Blue’s instinctual urge to protect went into overdrive. Some overzealous outside cats (most likely unneutered males) had also marked the outside of the townhome.
In short, Blue was suffering from a Napoleon complex: he was completely insecure in his own territory, and thus was striking out in every possible direction. He had become the powerless dictator. Putting his mark along the perimeter was a way of saying to the territorial intruders, “Stop right there! Come no further!” To start to resolve the situation, we had Nancy stop putting food outside. I also had her buy a “Critter Gitter” which is a perimeter alarm. It detects movement within a 40′ perimeter, and generates sound and light to scare off the intruders. Also, we put litterboxes and food bowls in various places around the indoor perimeter. The boxes gave Blue positive places to deposit his scent in socially significant areas, and the food would represent another “safe” marker.
Because of the severity of the situation, we needed even more help in this case. I had previously made various essence remedies to help with the stress of territorial insecurity. It was time to make a stock remedy for this situation with the help of Dr. Jean. The prototype of “Safe Space” was formulated and brought back to Nancy and Blue. It proved partially successful, but it was not what I had hoped for. Nancy told me that while the spraying had all but stopped, Blue wasn’t sleeping much and spent much time patrolling the windows and doors. Once again, I consulted with Dr. Jean. We added some essences and took others away, and I returned the new formula to Nancy. Within two weeks, all had normalized in the home. Safe Space even had a positive effect on Graham, addressing the last residual trepidation regarding his new home. Nancy applied Safe Space topically to the cats, as well as adding it to their canned food and water. She also used the remedy in a plant sprayer (one dropper in a bottle of spring water) and spritzed the inside of the home liberally. We were thrilled with the results, and subsequently added Safe Space to our permanent repertoire.
The Spirit Essences remedy “Safe Space” includes, as of this writing, the following essences (we’re always looking for new essences to add to our growing repertory, so all formulas are subject to change):
- From Flower Essence Society Healing Herbs (Bach Flower Equivalent): Elm, Vervain, Vine, Walnut
- From AUM Himalaya: Swallow Wart
- From Australian Living Essences: Rose Coneflower
- From Flower Essence Society: Chamomile, Pink Yarrow
- From Rocky Mountain Essences: Campfire, Mountain Pool, Wind
- From Pacific Essences: Chiton, Pink Seaweed, Rainbow Kelp
- From Watersong Sanctuary: Eye of God, Russian Olive, White Eagle
- From Green Hope Farm: Broccoli, Golden Areca Palm, Lantana Involucrata, Spring Sandwort
As we explore and add new essence lines to our repertory, we will be able to continually update this and other remedies, zeroing in even more effectively on the stresses our animal companions experience. Thanks to Nancy, Blue and Graham for their experience and for helping us to help others.
*Names have been changed to ensure privacy.
For personal assistance with your cat’s behavior problems, call Jackson Galaxy to schedule a consultation at 310-316-6618, or find out more at JacksonGalaxy.com.