22 May, 2012

Super Suit

Bilbo is an all-around good kitty. He's handsome, smart, healthy, has lots of purrs to give, and of course he cuddles with me in the mornings. He doesn't pee where he's not supposed to, and only scratches on his scratching post; really, we lucked out. He's a great cat.

However, this poor little guy suffers from separation anxiety. Not in the way where he'll destroy your entire house while anxiously pacing the floor and pooping in your shoes but in a more self-destructive way. He licks. And licks, and licks, and licks... until there's no fur or skin left to lick - then he licks some more. It's terrible.
Thus was born the Super Suit.

We discovered that he gets separation anxiety when we returned home from a vacation and found for the second time, that he had a wound which he absolutely refused to leave alone. The first time around, we thought he had maybe gotten a bug bite or something, so we took him to the vet who shot him full of steroids and gave him medications to take for a few weeks. He wore a cone collar for more than 2 months. He was miserable, and the medicine he was taking made him act like a completely different cat. It was a bad experience.
This time, he licked a spot raw on his shoulder and I knew it had to do with us being gone. I also knew that I wanted to avoid having to give him tons of steroid shots and pills.
His wound today, after I caught him obsessively licking... eewww.
Knowing we would be travelling through Europe later this year with him, and not wanting to lose him somewhere along the way, we bought him a harness. It wrapped under his tummy and around his neck (loosely), was secured with hook and loop closures, as well as had reflective tape around the edges. He absolutely hates it. This harness ruined his life, and what's worse! I noticed that it covered his wound, keeping him from licking it, so I forced him to wear it for several days.

Bilbo moping in his harness.
He was so depressed. He slept way more than usual and became reluctant to walk in it. Seeing how much he hated it, I decided to try to figure out another solution.
I spread out his harness onto some neoprene fabric I had (from a camera bag project that sadly never came into fruition) and traced the neck closures. Then, instead of tracing the straps that went under his torso, I rounded it off so it would lay over his shoulders, covering the wound, but not restricting motion. To keep the new collar in place, I sewed a strip of stretch fabric to fit loosely under his tummy, behind his elbows (rather than so far back where his muscles are, where the harness strapped). I sewed on some hook and loop tape to fasten it at the neck and when I tried it on him, his reaction was priceless!

His new collar looks sort of like a cape, which is why we named it the Super Suit.
Just look at his face. Tell me he doesn't look relieved to not have to wear the awful harness anymore! The neoprene was a great choice because it was stiff, but not too stiff to where he couldn't move or twist. The new Super Suit was a very big success! 
He wore it for about 2 weeks, and his wound healed up with no problem. We decided to give his wound two or three more days before we took the Super Suit off completely to allow his fur to grow back over his newly healed skin. I had noticed that the Super Suit had gotten a bit ragged where he cleaned his sides and licked the edges with his rough little tongue, and the elasticity in the underbelly strap had gone completely - but I figured it would last at least a couple more days.
He went outside that afternoon and came back naked and with a new bloody spot on his shoulder. The little brat had not only escaped from his Super Suit, but licked his wound completely open again!!


Back to the drawing board I went, and came up with a new and improved Super Suit! It would have looked infinitely better, had I sewn it all in black thread, but oh well. Maybe I will attack it with a Sharpie later.

I traced the same pattern, but this time added bias tape to the edges, so that this time if he licks it, it wont fray, making him look like a hobo. Also, I used actual elastic for the band under his armpits/elbows and fit it to him so it's not too tight. He can escape with some struggle (should he get caught on something outdoors) but the strap is made to fit him well.

Excuse the super-lightening of this next photo, but black is difficult to photograph details on with an iPhone... 
I added the same hook and loop closures to secure the front, but also added a strip of elastic bias tape over it, which will prevent him from catching the opening on something and just slipping out of it, which is what I think happened to his previous Super Suit.

The stitching looks really messy because it's grey instead of black, but oh well, right? It's not a beauty contest, and in this case it's function over form. I put some hydrocortisone cream on his spot after I cleaned it, then put his little Super Suit on and he seems to be a happy camper! 

Now to pose the question: Crazy Cat Lady or Genius Inventor? Maybe a little bit of both :-)


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