I have been thinking about this for a good while and I have come to the conclusion that having a cat (two, to be precise) has been a great help for my fragile mental health. I know most people would think it would more easily be dogs to offer this kind of… emotional support, as cats are often seen as independent and even selfish, but in my case nothing has been as beneficial as having these two fluffy babies running around my house and I would never trade it for anything else.
I got my first cat – the grey one, the Lord, Sir Cat – when I was about 18 years old. He was a 4 months old kitten and I was an almost-adult with an undiagnosed anxiety disorder who thought she was just unable to function as a normal human being. The bond we have built has grown so strong through the years that now, 7 years later, I can’t even imagine a life without him.
Three years ago, I found my second cat – the ginger one, the Emperor – near my house, abandoned and terrified, and took him home. He never left since then and he naturally became an essential member of the family as well.
Living with them has taught me so many things and helped me in so many ways that I decided to write this post to show how beneficial it can be to have a pet when you are struggling with a mental disorder (and also that cats are just as cool and amazing and loving as dogs, excuse me very much 😋).
1. They showed me that you can be an introverted, while also being great company and the friendliest of friends. My cats, as most cats, will like to cuddle at times, will want to play and have fun, just as much as they will need their alone time and personal space. They are the best example of what being an introvert is like and they have shown me that all it takes to build a bond with them is respect for their needs. As someone who has always struggled and worried that people would think I am anti-social, watching them hide in their corner for a while, making it clear that they don’t want to be disturbed, has always been quite… comforting. If my cat can do it, why should I feel bad for needing my time alone? It’s part of my nature as an introvert and it doesn’t make me a horrible person.
2. They are independent, they can take care of themselves perfectly well, but they still need me. Sure, being woken up at 5AM because they’re hungry can sometimes be annoying, but knowing they need me is a big motivation to do things. There are times when anxiety and depression are so paralyzing that I feel like I can’t even leave my bed and every movement feels impossible. Having them come meow at me motivates me to shake myself out of that state. Knowing they need to be fed and need to be taken care of is sometimes the only thing that pushes me to try function as a normal adult, but it helps me get up and get out, and slowly try to make things better day by day.
3. I believe cats can sense when you are sad and when you just need comfort. There have been times when I cried for an hour and my cat just let me hug him without ever complaining once, just purring and waiting for me to feel okay.
4. This might be just me, but I find watching them sleep to be the most reassuring and calming thing ever. There is something so peaceful in seeing them all curled up in their favourite spot, purring softly. It does feel therapeutic to me and sometimes when I am stressed it’s so nice to go sit next to them and just listen to their breathing.
5. They’re fun and crazy and sometimes they just do such weird things that I end up laughing and it takes a little weight off my chest. You might turn around and suddenly see them standing on top of the fridge, staring at you like it’s the most normal thing ever. Or you might empty the dishwasher just for them to think “oh would be nice to jump inside”. They’re weird and hilarious and I love them for that.
Of course, not everyone can own a cat and even owning one won’t magically solve every problem. They are great companions though, and I am so thankful to have these two cuties in my life. I miss them every time I am away even for just one day. And I am sure that there will be people who think I am just a crazy cat lady, but throughout the years they have helped me deal with my anxiety and they have been friends to me when I felt like no one else in the world would ever care to be. I am grateful for that.