Bonding Rituals With Your (Pet) Children

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My rescue “therapy cat” Hopie is the star of this video. In 2013 we rescued him, with the help of the Santa Monica firemen, from a screened sewer opening where he was trapped.

He was 1.5 years old at that time – scrawny from malnutrition, very hyperactive, and starving for good food. He would jump up and search food on the kitchen counters, try to take food from our plates, relentlessly trying to fill his belly, always afraid there wouldn’t be enough food.

That’s what starvation, insecurity, and imprisonment due to people and animals.

I embarked on a series of interventions to correct his behavior: Besides his collar and microchip, I put him in a small harness with a bungie cord leash when I was serving food or when the family was eating – attaching the end of the leash to a chair leg or table. If he tried to jump up to the counters or lunge at our plates, the bungie cord would gently pull him back. I would tell him, “You have to wait until we are finished eating our food, or until your Australian Shepherd brother Brutie is served, then I will feed you.”

This mild restraint served as a “boundary” and after a couple of weeks, he got the message. Over the course of the last 10 years, I have established many routines for him: He has to come in for the night by 8:30 pm. He is not allowed into the front yard because of the heavy traffic on our street. He and I prepare for bedtime in our bathroom. He only gets 2 meals a day.

In exchange for these boundaries, I make special time for him throughout the day: We eat our breakfast outside every morning. He sits in a basket and naps when I am on my computer. He joins me for Virtual Therapy sessions with my clients. He accompanies me on our drives to Santa Fe. We sometimes nap together in the afternoons. His father brushes him with the flea comb.

This little boy gets all the food, love, and attention he needs. He trusts that he will be taken care of and knows that he will be treated with love, boundaries, and attention to his every need. He is confident, he tells us when he needs something, he is athletic, well-muscled, healthy, kind, considerate, helpful when we are feeling sad or having problems sleeping, affectionate, yet he enjoys his time alone.

He has developed his own “rituals of wellbeing:” He meticulously cleans himself, moves from room to room throughout the day, choses special places to nap. He has learned not to hurt the birds and squirrels in the yard and just enjoys watching them. He loves being an inside/outside kitty – who still prefers using his inside litter boxes (which he has trained us to promptly clean). He loves to sit with us or near us when we eat, or talk, or watch TV. Yet sometimes he goes to another room, to have his own space.

I know that our family rituals have helped him become a very well adjusted, happy kitty!
#JudithAnneDesjardinsPsychotherapist #HopietheTherapyCat #BondingRitualsforyourChildren