Can a Cat Have an Existential Crisis?

Britt Peterson in Nautilus:

When I first adopted Lucas nine years ago from a cat rescue organization in Washington, D.C., his name was Puck. “Because he’s mischievous,” his foster mother said. Although we changed the name, her analysis proved correct. Unlike his brother Tip, whom I also adopted, a gray cat with white paws and an Eeyore-ish dour doofy sweetness, Lucas was from the start a fierce black fireball, a menace to stray toes or blanket fringes or loose items on tabletops. He was my alarm clock in the morning with his habit of knocking my hairbrush, deodorant, and earrings box off my bureau until I got up to feed him.

Then, almost four years ago, my husband and I had a child. Lucas, no longer the most important small creature in the apartment, retreated to the top shelf of his cat tree, where he would lie all day, staring morosely over the edge. When he did want attention, his solicitations became aggressive. Instead of waiting until 7 a.m. to start knocking things off of the bureau, he started hopping up there at 4 a.m. We closed the bedroom door and were still woken up at 4 every day by Lucas rattling the doorknob or hurling the weight of his 13-pound body against it. At mealtimes he would gobble down his food and then shove Tip out of the way to eat Tip’s food. He started marking the carpets in our living room and my son’s room, and his play with Tip turned more violent too.

I made an appointment, first, with a pet behavior specialist and, five months later, when her initially helpful suggestions didn’t change Lucas’s behavior, with a vet. The vet described Lucas’s condition as “anxiety” and prescribed fluoxetine, a generic for Prozac that’s often prescribed for animals. While I had felt a mixture of frustration and pity toward Lucas, in that moment I experienced a surprising stir of recognition. Over a decade ago, during six months in college, I had panic attacks every other day. I was given a similar diagnosis—panic disorder being a major anxiety disorder—and was prescribed a similar medication.

More here.