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Friday, August 2, 2013

Take a 'Paw's for Your Health

I used to be a major cat person.  Well okay, if I'm honest, I actually was a crazy cat lady.  It started very young.  By 18 months of age, I was smitten with felines.  No one knows where this affinity came from.  We didn't have cats because my brother was allergic.  Maybe it was the stuffed cats my grandma Ruth bought me at Bloomingdales.  I say 'cats' plural because I loved these stuffies so much, I went through 3 of them.  Unfortunately, by the time I got to the third one, the company stopped making them.  This left my mom responsible for trying to keep my last one from completely falling apart.  As embarrassing as it is, this is what it now looks like (eventually thread no longer worked so she had to start using my brother's hockey tape):



 
Don't laugh.  I know she looks a little worse for wear now.  But I loved her dearly.

Nevertheless, stuffed cats wasn't enough for me.  I smothered all the neighbourhood cats with love and begged my parents practically every day for a pet cat.  The fish and hamsters we had just didn't cut it for me.  Finally, when I was 11, my parents gave in.  A colleague of my mom's had a cat that had kittens and she told us we could take some home and if my brother's allergies acted up (he was no longer testing positive for cats on his scratch tests), than we could return them to her.  Fortunately (because I probably would have gone bananas), he was fine and we got to keep 2 kittens: Mittens (my dear calico baby) and Ziggy (my brother's tabby).  Mittens and I were best friends, I loved that cat to bits.  She was so loving and demonstrative: she would lick your face like she was a dog, no exaggeration!  Both cats died when they were about 14 years old, after good, long lives.

I got more cats in 1998: Lester, a Bluepoint Siamese and Milo, a Russian Blue.  Milo was a bit high strung, having been found abandoned by a cat rescue organization, but he was very sweet and loving.  Lester was really and truly my baby.  I got him when he was just 6 weeks old (he fit in my palm) and he immediately adopted me as his mom.  The joy and comfort these babies gave me is indescribable.  Although Adam is allergic to cats, he adapted pretty quickly after we moved in together in 2001 so we didn't think it was a big issue.   Unfortunately, when we moved to our new house and Big A was born (both events happened within a month of each other), they did not adjust well.  Particularly Lester, who felt neglected by me because I was now devoting my attention to a new baby, really suffered.  He meowed incessantly, which annoyed Adam and I and often woke Little A.  He became depressed and lost lots of weight.  His fur lost its lustre and began to fall out. On top of that, Adam's allergist said he should not be living with cats or he would develop asthma.  They had to go.  At first I was distraught, but eventually I was resigned to this and knew it was best for everyone, including me, who felt overwhelmed trying to take care of 2 cats and a newborn.  We were very fortunate to find a loving family that cared for both of them until they passed away about a year ago.

I've been without cats since 2006 and really haven't missed the work involved in having pets.  I also seem to have detached myself from the pleasure I used to get from cats.  For the first time in my life, nothing in me would even stir when I saw a kitty on the street.

And then this recently happened:



This cat has adopted me as a friend.  I am guessing it belongs to one of our neighbours but I have no idea which ones.  He (I haven't actually checked if it is male or female) comes and sits on our front porch or back porch almost every day.  Or jumps onto our kitchen window to watch me while I do dishes.  The girls are delighted and more comfortable interacting with this cat when they see me getting so up close and personal.

I have named him Mr. Wuzzles.  After all this time, all the love has come flooding back.  The soft fur, the purring, the rhythmic breathing when he dozes or luxuriates in my caresses.  Some cat cuddles is just what I needed this week: One of our toilets broke, my credit card was compromised, the girls have been fighting a lot.  Nothing catastrophic, but I've been feeling pretty anxious.  A little petting session with Mr. Wuzzles was just what I needed to calm down and put everything in perspective.

Of course, you probably already know the therapeutic benefits of animals if you yourself have a pet, but this is also supported by research showing that pets can enhance the physical and mental health of humans.

I don't expect to ever have pets of my own again: not only is Adam allergic, he has never really liked animals, but you can guarantee that I will now be peeking out of my doors on a regular basis to look for some snuggles from Mr. Wuzzles!

Have a lovely weekend (a long weekend if you are in Canada), and snuggle your pets (or your neighbours' pets) if you can.