I know from communicating with many of you in the comments that your cats have been instrumental in your lives. People say their cats help them when life gets difficult. I agree! I know it’s been true in my life. Life can throw huge curve balls at us — death, financial worries, relationship changes. And yet there’s always the centering (even insistent?) presence of our cats to help us.
Here’s how cats help me keep it together when things get a little bumpy: They make it impossible to think about anything else but them.
Am I tempted to wallow or procrastinate? Am I bitching to myself that I don’t want to go out in the cold and get some exercise? Well … I HAVE to go out in the cold. We have a feral boy living in the garage now, and he needs his water and food. I don’t want him to get too cold! (Actually, he seems well equipped to survive in this amazingly harsh climate, but worrying about him gets me up and about.)
There’s no time to waste, and if I am wasting time, the cats will fill it. There’s always a litter box that needs cleaning, a cat that needs brushing or petting, a kitten that needs loving or playing with, an ornament that’s been knocked off the tree before a cat does something worse (like breaking it and possibly ingesting the slivers). Sometimes, having cats is like having five newborn children all at once. But this is good! They push me to keep going.
Here are four great ways my cats help me keep it together:
Cats are such creatures of habit, and that is a good thing. Rarely has life been so challenging that I didn’t want to get out of bed, but there are a few times I’ve been tempted to stay under the covers and avoid what life has in store for me. The cats are not going to let that happen — no way. Gentle, insistent hints for feeding begin at 5 a.m., and they get downright obvious and insistent by 6. If the cats can’t get into the bedroom, they strategically wrestle outside the bedroom door, throwing their bodies against the door barrier. I get the idea. Super bonus: Because the cats wake me up early, I don’t have bad dreams. I am one of those people who has really strange dreams if I sleep past 6 a.m. The cats are looking out for me!
This trick works at night, too. My cats must be played with at night, or I can almost feel the ennui draping over their shoulders. Nothing is more fun than cat playtime. Just see if your stress about life’s challenges doesn’t decrease after a good romp with your cats!
My head can be a huge trap. Ever notice that? Spend too much time in your head and it’s a recipe for disaster. All of a sudden those life challenges seem like complicated, insurmountable barriers. If you’re like me, the drama in your head quickly builds and gets blown out of proportion. But I have discovered that my cats don’t let me spend too much time in my head. Why? Because cats are so physical. The simple act of petting your cat will take you out of yourself. You’ll feel their fur. Put your finger under their chin and you’ll feel their purr.
If you’re not stroking a cat just now as you read this, I bet you can easily imagine it. Cats are tactile. If the noise and stuff in your head gets to be too much, reach for your cat. Touch them, and then play with them! Running around with your cat or engaging in a good play session will definitely get you out of your head and distract you from life’s stuff, at least for a moment.
If you have a really amazing cat (aren’t all cats amazing?), she may actually seem to sense when you’re being knocked around by life’s challenges. She may offer support. There are many stories of this — cats knowing when a person is sick or grieving, cats offering comfort. Chester, my sweet and generous buff cat, sat with me for a full 45 minutes after one of my cats passed on. I know he missed her and was paying respects, so to speak. At the risk of anthropomorphizing, I believe that our animal companions might offer support in certain situations, whether it’s a paw on the arm, or visiting us when we’re ill, or being tuned in when something is troubling us.
This is an interesting situation that I am dealing with now. We’ve recently had a big change in the household with the passing of my cat Karma. And for the first time, I think I am watching a cat grieving. Chester was acting so unlike himself after Karma left that I took him to the vet for bloodwork to make sure nothing was wrong. But I also read up on grieving in cats, and much of what I was observing fit the grieving process. Looking out for Chester and making sure he really is okay has gotten my mind off Karma. I’m making sure that Chester gets the familiar routines that he loves, and that he’s getting extra special attention. I think he is starting to come out of it.
So, how do your cats help you get through the curve balls that life can throw in our path? Share your stories in the comments.
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About Catherine Holm: Told that she is funny but doesn’t know it, accused of being an unintentional con artist by her husband, quiet, with frequent unannounced bursts into dancing liveliness, Cat Holm loves writing about, working for, and living with cats. She is the author of the cat-themed memoir Driving with Cats: Ours for a Short Time, the creator of Ann Catanzaro cat fantasy story gift books, and the author of a short story collection about people and place. She loves to dance, be outside whenever possible, read, play with cats, make music, do and teach yoga, and write. Cat lives in the woods, which she loves as much as really dark chocolate, and gets regular inspiration shots along with her double espresso shots from the city.