Therapy: Xanax or Pets?

Saying goodbye to the cats, the good vibes and quite possibly my chilled out mood.

For the most part of three weeks we have been cat-sitting two lovely little kitties. I’d not had much to do with them previously. Whenever I visited they were often hiding timidly under the lounge and only surfacing with the promise of kitchen tidbits and other treats. Despite this, I jumped at the idea to look after them, excited at the prospect of getting to bond with them and to have them eating out of the palm of my hand soon enough. Overjoyed at the prospect of having pets again – if only for a short period of time. Sadly we’re not really allowed to have pets in our apartment (shh don’t tell my landlord that we just kind of pushed the boundaries on that rule).

I loved having the cats, loved every single minute of it and had to tell myself very sternly that “no I could not cat-nap them into hiding” on the day they were due to be collected.

Now that they are gone, I know that I will not miss the abundance of cat hair that has found its way into every possible corner of the apartment. Ginger and brown hair that has infiltrated piles of neatly folded clothes in wardrobes, once clean and comfortable lounge chairs, neatly arranged bookshelves and tidy kitchen cupboards. Thanks guys, pretty sure cat hair covered clothes was not part of my desired fashion look.

I will not miss the 5.59am early morning wake up calls from a ginger cat purring as loud as a freight train into my ear and nudging my face. Morning guys, guess it’s breakfast time. You couldn’t have waited another half hour could you? That would have been much more considerate!

I will not miss having to hide all of my electronic cables for fear of them being chewed up and spat out during a middle of the night random cat adventure in search of mischief. Umm, it’s 3am kitties, why are you not sleeping?!

And I definitely will not miss the half hour of panic that I endured a few days ago when I thought I’d lost one of them. Panic coursed through me. In a moment of forgetfulness did I forget to close the balcony door behind me? Did I not notice one of them perched and ready to escape through the front door as I walked in absentmindedly? Frantically searching through a fairly compact two-bedroom apartment, looking into cupboards and under the couch and up high in the wardrobe shelves I wondered, “how could I have possibly lost one of them? There’s no more places to hide, he’s not in here. Seriously, where is that damned cat?! How is it that I’m perfectly capable of keeping four children safe and well but I fail at looking after a cat? And he’s my favourite too, why did it have to be this one.. Oh. my. god. the BF is going to kill me!”  Thankfully, after much calling and rattling of food I found him scratching to get out, hidden in a drawer under the bed having found his way into there and then climbed over the rails into the very middle of the bed on an exploration mission. Yep, that was a half hour I did not enjoy. I’m fairly sure my pulse is still not yet recovered.

What I will miss though is the companion and friendship that the cats provided. I will miss sharing my bed with two little curled up bundles of fur. I will miss the exchange in dialogue when they would come looking for me, miaowing to call out and say hello. I will miss having them sit patiently at my feet in the kitchen, praying that I take pity on them and share whatever I was cooking. And I definitely will miss coming home after a long day at work, either good or bad, and distracting myself with two little kitties. Feeling the tension and stress evaporate instantly as though it weren’t even there in the first place as I spent hours patting and cuddling and playing with them.

Because that’s the effect that the cats had on me. And that all animals have on people when given half the chance. The love that pets provide goes way beyond that which can be measured. They’re calming and soothing. They can sense when you’re happy and when you’re sad. They’re partners in a life shared together.

I firmly believe that having a pet is a right of childhood, certainly pets played a pivotal role in my own. They’re not only warm and cuddly and provide interaction and entertainment, they can also significantly enhance the child’s developmental growth. For children who have pets, they not only provide wonderful opportunity to learn responsibility and other similar lessons, they also instil humility and respect and create emotional connections. Pets can be instrumental in teaching children first hand of the importance for compassion and understanding, of the necessity to put the needs of others before their own and of the power of a loving and stable environment. Of course we already know this, pets have been used as therapy for a long time now, helping those suffering anxiety, depression, PTSD and other emotional and life issues. Whilst this may not be at the forefront of your average child and their pet, the concept remains the same.

In my own humble opinion (disclaimer: I’m not an expert, merely a first hand observer with a keen penchant for formulating my own perspectives and then sharing them – hey freedom of speech y’all) the healing powers of animals and pets go well beyond the abilities of the pharmaceutical variety. The connection shared between animal and human, the mutual trust and bond created can be life changing. Even life affirming.

I see the special bond between Miss Charlie and Beansie, the sheer joy and excitement when she returns home from school only to be bowled over by a very excited little doggie whom would very much like 5 minutes alone with her best friend to lick her face to bits, cuddle and jump all over. It’s a beautiful thing. Something that I truly believe all people should have the great fortune of experiencing, most especially children.

… Now if only I can find a solution to this “no pets rule” my landlord has. Because, in all seriousness, how else am I going to keep my de-stressed, blissed out self in fine form?          Anyone got any suggestions?

  • You can see an earlier post about the benefits of children, pets and chores here.
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