More Than Just a Cat: My cats have supported me during some of my darkest moments
I always had pets as a child, including gerbils, rabbits, hamsters, and fish. Then, when I was around twelve, my mother finally gave up and allowed us to adopt a cat! Saffy served as my mother’s replacement in the evenings after school when she was still at work. She was able to assist me in ways that no other person ever could when I experienced trauma at the age of 15. Saffy’s fur helped calm me and bring me back to reality when I would experience flashbacks and feel as like I was experiencing the tragic situation, allowing me to realise that I was safe at this time.
I was taken to a special psychiatric hospital in 2012 after the trauma caused my mental health to drastically worsen, which was more than 100 miles away from my home. I clearly missed my loved ones, but I also missed Saffy. To help me remember that she and many others had been there for me during my worst moments, my mother would send me pictures and adorable videos of herself on social media so that I could still see her. I owed it to them and to myself to give it everything I had in order to get well and leave the hospital.
My mother had the bright idea of getting me a cat collar to remind me of my long rehabilitation goal of owning my own home and having my own cat when, after about a year, I started to notice changes in my mental health. That collar eventually wound up around the neck of my kitten and hung from a picture frame in my hospital room for an additional 18 months before I was finally allowed to go.
It was both simple and difficult for me to decide to get my own kitten, Dolly. On the one hand, I knew that I needed company as I adjusted to living alone after years of being surrounded by people all the time, but on the other hand, I didn’t want it to appear like I was attempting to take Saffy’s place. When Saffy had to be put to sleep one Christmas because she was having difficulty breathing, this concept got even more difficult.
I believe that having Dolly and living in my own house helped make losing Saffy a little easier because I still had a cat around. Saffy had been my mother’s only companion during the years I had been in the hospital, so she adopted another cat (millie), which made it more harder for her.
But Dolly was a very different cat from Saffy! She was much friendlier and lively, and having her by my side as I healed from my mental illness meant the world to me. I was in pieces when, in October 2018, her organs started to fail, I still had Pixie, my bunny, but my house wasn’t a home without a cat in it! So, I adopted Emmy, my little calico cat, in less than a week.
Getting a cat rather than “shopping” for one was so much more satisfying since I felt as like I was doing a nice act, and that notion always made me feel better when I missed Dolly. It’s also wonderful that Emmy has a good life with all she could possibly want after having a difficult start when she was found alone and wandering around the city when she was just a few weeks old. Emmy’s journey from such a horrific beginning to a home that is filled with kindness, care, and love is pretty unique. All cats deserve love.
It is a great honour to be asked by the Cats Protection team to share my experience with cats and how they have made my life better. If readers take away anything from this essay, I would like them to realise that their cat is more than “just a cat.”