Cats are remarkable creatures, and not just for their agility, their hunting prowess, or their self-healing purrs. They’re remarkable creatures because they possess the unique ability to bring us out of our own darkness, even if it’s only temporarily. There is just something about the way they look at us, the way they curl up with us, and the way they always seem to know when something’s wrong, that makes it so cats comfort us so well.
How cats comfort us
A story in The New York Times discusses one woman’s odyssey with a severely depressed man in her life, and is a great example of how cats comfort us. Eventually, writer Hannah Poston learned that the best way of dealing with his depression was to do things for herself. One thing she wanted was a kitten, so, over his implied objection, she adopted a kitten. She braced herself for everything from his wrath to just plain indifference. Instead, he fell head over heels in love with the kitten.
The kitten grew into a cat, and had the power to pull him out of his holes. While he stressed, and she understood, that the cat was not a cure for depression (cats aren’t), the change was so dramatic that she felt it was important to share. His love for the kitten even helped him take his therapist’s suggestion to try medication to help his depression.
How my cats comfort me
I, too, suffer from a depression I suspect would be considerably worse if it wasn’t for my four cats. My husband helps considerably, too, but when he’s at work, and I’m at home, working and getting frustrated, and headed down that black spiral I hate so much, a cat that jumps up onto my lap, and kneads, or rubs, or just settles down and purrs quietly, always seems to help. I’ve been in and out of therapy for my depression, and through it all, have been my husband, and my cats.
I wholly believe that one reason cats comfort us is because they’re just there. They don’t judge us, they don’t give us unsolicited, unwanted advice, and they don’t even interrupt us. They give us unconditional love regardless of whether our problems are acute and definitely our own fault, or chronic and absolutely not our fault, or anything in between.
Cats comfort us because we live in a world where people use other people’s problems to feel better about themselves. My cats, on the other hand, look at me and know that, even if I’m hating myself with a passion because of something terrible I’ve done (whether real or perceived), I’m still me and I’m still their person. They don’t beat me up at a time when I’ve got a corner on beating myself up.
Poston says that her cat has become, more or less, a rock of love and stability in her tumultuous relationship. She’s very clear that both she and her boyfriend know that cats aren’t a cure for depression, and they’re very right. Depression is a serious illness that requires therapy, and possibly medication.
While it’s true that cats comfort us, it’s absolutely necessary that you seek help for depression
If you think you might suffer from depression, it’s absolutely vital that you reach out to professionals for help. Having a cat is not an alternative to treatment, no matter how well cats comfort us. What cats do is similar to what an empathetic, non-judging friend or family member can do for us. It’s not therapy.
When it comes to bad days, or stressful times, though, cats comfort us in numerous ways. They can give us that quiet, non-judgmental support that we so often have trouble finding elsewhere.