Pictured on the left, my cat. His name is Misha. He is the love of my life. There are days, and this is one, when perhaps the only reason I don’t think seriously about the final surrender to depression, is because I need to take care of him. My cat is my best friend, sometimes my only friend. He doesn’t know it (does he?) that he keeps me alive.
Just about anyone who has (nobody really owns) a cat knows the reality of their pet. The fact is that a cat is an unmatched psychotherapist. The common wisdom is that a dog licking your face is the world’s best psychiatrist. I dispute that, and I’ve lived simultaneously with both species. My take: dogs are more overtly emotional. They are more accessible because they let us know what they’re feeling about us and about their world.
That doesn’t make them more empathetic or smarter. It means simply that they are not “programmed” like cats. Cats, believe me, know who loves them and who they love in their turn. And a cat, having figured out your pressure points, will play to them, not exploit them or you.
Now, what has this to do with chronic illness? What has it to do with pain, or psychiatric illness, or really much of anything.
The object of this blog is to prove it.
A cat cannot cure pain. Neither can a dog. Both are wonderful companions for that reason among many. An animal can relieve some of the pain, at least the internal or mental pain born of a damaged spirit.
If you are blessed to earn the love of a cat or dog, you are blessed indeed. If you have a dog who looks up at you with expectation and happiness during a morning walk, you have received the gift of trust. If you have a cat who, as mine did, runs away for four days but comes home on his own because he’s missed you, therefore you’ve received a great gift of love.
If you’ve babbled to your cat or dog, imagining they can understand you, then you are not only blessed, but you’re also out of your mind. Dogs and cats can understand a great deal. If you say “I love you” to your animal, and you say it often enough, the words will implant themselves in the animal and grow to produce new fruit.