My Therapist is a Cat

I was born into a cat-loving family and grew up with anywhere from one to four cats in the household at a time.

As a socially awkward child who had trouble feeling accepted by my peers, I took fondly to the furry creatures that dwelt in my home. Humans could be hurtful, but never once did I feel judged by a cat.

Although each one has a unique personality, they all seem to appreciate the more meaningful qualities of a person rather than superficial characteristics such wealth or apparel (unless, of course, you are sporting a long necklace, flowy scarf, or otherwise-dangling piece of clothing; cats are very partial to these).

The affection of my cats was a blessing to come home to after a rough day at school or a grueling ballet class.

Sometimes they would lick my hand, curl up on my lap, or rub their head against my own, making me feel loved and accepted. Perhaps these gestures were merely due to the fact that I fed them and gingerly rubbed their bellies, but I always felt that genuine, loving bond between us.

Regardless, my cats instilled in me a sense of value and importance, a feeling with which I was otherwise unfamiliar.

Not having at least one cat under the same roof as I was a foreign experience until I started college. This was also when my mental health began to decline.

I developed anorexia during my freshman year and was eventually hospitalized. Treatment was very helpful in teaching me new coping skills and in medically stabilizing me, but I found the most solace in my sweet cat whom I was able to come home to. She has always been able to provide me with more feelings of true love and positive regard than I have ever received from a human therapist.

In fact, many studies have suggested that interactions with cats can have significant positive effects on a person’s physical and mental health. Benefits include decreased blood pressure, lowered levels of stress and anxiety, and an elevation in mood.

Some research also shows that people who live with cats have a generally healthier immune system than those that do not regularly spend time with cats.

Loneliness can be alleviated by cats, as well; their companionship and relatively low-maintenance lifestyle makes them exceptional for seniors or people living alone.

Many people worry about exposing young children to cats for fear of allergic reactions, but Dr. James E. Gern of the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that the opposite is true: kids who share homes with pets have up to a 33% reduced risk of developing allergies.

For many, the therapeutic nature of cats is an invaluable gift. A simple cuddle with a cat proved to be one of the most healing forms of therapy in my life.

Whether I was sad, lonely, or struggling fight off unhealthy urges, spending a few minutes with a cat has always helped me get through another day.

 

Anna Hughes

April 22, 2016

 

References

  • McCandless, Sarah Grace. “Top 5 Health Benefits of Owning a Pet.” Animal Planet. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2016.
  • Montgomery, Sy. “Psychological Effects of Pets Are Profound.” Boston Globe. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2016.
  • “Studies Confirm Health Benefits of Having a Cat.” Academia. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2016.
  • Viegas, Jennifer. “The Truth about Cats: They’re Good for Us.” Discovery News. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2016.
  • Yackulich, Robyn, M.S. “The Benefits of Pet Ownership.” Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2016.

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