On 10th October every year it is time to take a step back and try and think about those who struggle with mental health difficulties, be it someone you know personally, or someone you have heard about from another. Mental Health will mean something different to every one of us as it is completely unique… Read more »
On 10th October every year it is time to take a step back and try and think about those who struggle with mental health difficulties, be it someone you know personally, or someone you have heard about from another.
Mental Health will mean something different to every one of us as it is completely unique to the individual and their own experiences. One thing I don’t doubt many people can agree on however is the huge benefit having a pet in our lives can have on our own mental health.
When I adopted my very special cat Harley a few years ago my mental health was wobbly at best. I had been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and depression not long before but I was managing, little did I know the difference having an animal would make.
I think the main thing it changed in me was realising there was a creature in my home that needed me every single day.
She needed me to feed her otherwise she would go hungry and she needed me to top up her water otherwise she would go thirsty. To her, it didn’t matter if I was feeling too depressed to do anything else that day, because she relied on me to keep her going and before I knew it we were a little team.
She forced me to put my feelings of anxiety and sadness to one side and although suppressing feelings is definitely not a good idea, sometimes taking your mind off things is hugely beneficial. It helped me to realise that I was important to another living being and it gave me purpose each day and that was key in helping me grow and move forward as an individual.
The other incredible thing Harley gave me was that consistent company whenever I needed it.
I think we can all agree cats tend to beat to the rhythm of their own drum, but generally if I need a lap cuddle from Harley she is there to fulfil that need. Even if sometimes I don’t need a cuddle (which is pretty much never), just knowing she is in my flat with me, going about her day, makes all the difference.
A close friend of mine also very kindly offered her account of how her two cats have been of a comfort to her during times of hardship.
“My two cats play a huge role in encouraging positive mental health for me. I find their purr really soothing and if I have had a bad day they are a joy to come back to. Their cuddles are really grounding, especially when they are lying on my chest and I find that as their pleasures are so simple (eating, sleeping, cuddling etc) it becomes easier to put the wider world and any worries I have into perspective. My husband and I were recently at Longleat and we saw this poem alongside a Linda Sutton etching which I thought summed this all up perfectly.”
‘What do cats remember of days?
They remember the ways in from the cold,
The warmest spot, the place of food.
They remember the places of pain, their enemies,
the irritation of birds, the warm fumes of the soil,
the usefulness of dust.
They remember the creak of a bed, the sound
of their owner’s footsteps, the taste of fish, the loveliness of cream. Cats remember what is essential of days. Letting all other memories go as of no worth they sleep sounder than we, whose hearts break remembering so many inessential things.’
by Brian Patten
If you are struggling with mental health challenges please do not suffer in silence. There is always help available to you, whether in the form of your furry best friend or some healthcare professionals, there is always something.
Before I got Harley, my husband was always the one who wanted a cat and I always stuck to the repeated phrase of “I’m a dog person” but after getting Harley I now see how the calm, quiet complexity of a cat, is one of the most endearing and wonderful relationships we can ever hope to have in our lives.
Hug your pets a little bit tighter tonight if you can and jut remember how wonderful they are.