The psychiatric community is abuzz regarding an innovative treatment approach for patients with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) that has both improved outcomes and lowered costs.
Notoriously difficult to treat, patients with the Axis II personality disorder frequently visit emergency rooms after a suicidal gesture that requires an expensive medical workup before psychiatric intervention can begin. Researchers at the University of Rhode Island Animal Behavior Lab report that using house cats to evaluate borderlines results in lowered costs, faster dispositions, and equivalent patient outcomes compared to human mental health providers.
Psychiatrists supervising the pilot programs have been impressed. Dr. Edwin Malloy, director of the Psychiatric Emergency Ward of Quintac Hospital, watched Simon (a Siamese mix) work with the same patient he’d treated only a week before:
“Even though I’d seen Alyssa on 18 prior visits for low-lethality, insincere suicidal overtures, I felt my hands were tied when she told me she’d taken three Tylenol PM tablets immediately before texting her ex-boyfriend and saying she really meant it this time.”
Dr. Malloy subsequently transferred Alyssa to a medical ER for multiple EKGs, serial acetaminophen levels, liver function tests, urine toxicology testing, ethanol levels, and a poison control consult at a cost of $12,000. He ultimately refused to accept her back in the psychiatric ER for a heart rate of 105.
On her next visit, Simon the cat was able to avoid all of these expenses with an identical healthcare outcome by simply walking away from Alyssa while she continued to demand her cell phone and express grievances in an increasingly high-pitched, tremulous voice.
Similar results were obtained in the St. Barrington Psychiatric ER, where senior psychiatrists watched as Lanky, an overweight Siamese mix, masterfully responded to even the most demanding and manipulative borderline patients. Chairman Emily Saul commented:
“I was amazed at his level of clinical detachment. He continued to fastidiously lick his anus even as Kourtni threatened to hang herself with a flimsy toilet paper noose she’d made in the bathroom. When she made choking noises and said she couldn’t breathe, he blinked slowly at her and then languidly resumed cleaning his immaculate sphincter. I would have immediately called anesthesia and insisted on a CT angiogram of the neck.”
Borderline patients themselves reluctantly agreed with the study findings. Savannah Lemuelle took a moment from carving the word “sorrow” on her thigh with a plastic fork to voice a grudging respect for Vanessa, her feline psychiatric provider. “It’s like she didn’t even care about anything I said, even the part about not feeling safe once I’m discharged. When I started banging my head against the stretcher, she gave me this sustained, venomous look that made me feel like I was wasting her time. Then she rolled over and went back to sleep.”
Lemuelle requested discharge 15 minutes later.
Veterinary behaviorists are pleased but not surprised by the results. Dr. Bill Kropf of Temple Veterinary School explained the longstanding, hostile relationship between Borderline patients and cats:
“Borderlines often claim to be like cats themselves: misunderstood, graceful, independent, pensive, and excellent mothers. In actuality, they possess absolutely none of these characteristics. Cats hate them.”