How a therapy cat helped me with my anxiety
I rarely sway towards the traditional — whether it’s the way I dress, my choice in music, or even my career choices. It was certainly no different when my GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder) recently crept back into my life. Lately, it feels insurmountable — almost as if I will never conquer it despite my many efforts. The time came when I needed something new for my recovery arsenal.
Having already gone through the typical checklist of things like medications, therapies, meditation, and other various techniques, I still felt as though I hadn’t found that one thing to ease panic before onset and eruption. Let’s face it, we can only do so much to fix issues like anxiety, and if the basic checklist of things isn’t helping, it’s time to think outside the box.
For me, this happened unexpectedly.
During a quick stop at the local pet store on the 4th of July, a half Persian long hair -- who goes by the name "Feathers" -- found me. She has, in a short time, not only helped my anxiety but changed my life.
The use of animals for therapeutic purposes isn’t new, per se, but it’s new to me in this context. I’ve always had an abundance of cats. I even worked for a vet for a couple years, and I adopted dogs twice when I worked for the local humane society. But this time was different; it felt different.
That fateful day, as I tried to pass the wall of adoptable animals inside their metal cages, one little fur-ball grabbed my attention -- literally.
Her giant paw reached through the bars and tapped me. I stopped to see who would do such a thing — only to be completely pulled in by what I can only describe as soft, kind, and somewhat human eyes. There’s a compassion and understanding swimming inside of her that words can’t fully explain. I knew that moment, she chose me; I had to have her.
Honestly, I was surprised she was still up for adoption. You don’t often find a beautiful cat like this in a cage with nowhere to go. That evening, I returned with my family to see if she’d pass the “kid” test with my 9 and 4-year-olds. The staff guided us into a small side room to see if we’d connect, family in tow. I was nervous and unsure of my decision to return, but we went ahead with the process. The rescue coordinator lifted Feathers out of the cage and placed her on my lap.
I noticed right away, she sort of melted into me -- calming every bit of anxiety I’d felt that day. It was strange to realize that I found more healing through a rescue cat nestled in my lap than through anything else I'd tried.
We left the pet store with Feathers, and ever since we've had her, she’s been crucial to my healing.
Though she wasn’t raised to specifically be a therapy pet, Feathers seems to sense my anxiety before even I do. It’s those times when she’ll seek me out and lay on or near me, refusing to let up until I’m fine again. It refocuses my energy and reminds me to breathe. Similarly, when we have guests or even if the kids are running through the house, I can now sense her anxiety and help her through it as well. We help each other get to the other side, which is both an unexpected bonus and a great way to show my kids there are lots of different ways to find comfort; it just takes finding what works for you.
It’s been nearly 2 months since we adopted Feathers, and it feels like she’s always been a part of our family. Even as I type this, she’s sleeping next to me on her favorite blanket.
When stress overcomes me, I now know that if other means don't help, I should find her and pour all my concentration into playing with or taking care of her. Then, before I know it, the panic attack is gone and I may even feel a little lighter.
I wouldn’t say she’s my “miracle,” or anything — but then again, maybe she is. Maybe I walked into the pet store that day because she needed me. Or maybe, before I ever laid eyes on her, I knew in my heart, I needed her more. And for that, I’m eternally grateful.
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