How My Anxiety-Riddled Cat Made Me a Better Person

Some days are harder than others...

Some days are harder than others…

 

It took me thirty minutes to put away the groceries this morning.  Thirty minutes to complete a simple task that should have taken five, maybe ten minutes at most.  Unless you have a cat with an anxiety disorder.

Yes, I said a cat with an anxiety disorder.  Our Muggsy, who paces from the kitchen, through the living room, to the door of the bedroom where my husband is trying to sleep in preparation for a long holiday weekend working the night shift.  A cat who emits loud, plaintive mewls in the ear of my no longer sleeping spouse, causing me to pause in the grocery unloading to remove him (cat, not husband) from the bedroom.  Closing the bedroom door does more harm than good as the neurotic cat sits wailing in front of the door cursing his lack of opposable thumbs, so I leave the door open and repeat this scenario four times, abandoning the foods that need to be refrigerated or frozen as I tend to my four-legged baby.

I pick up my unsettled darling boy and cradle him against my chest.  I whisper calm reassurances of safety and love as I press my face to his forehead.  I shower tiny kisses on him and rub his ears until his heart stops racing and a steady purr begins to rumble.  I carry him to the bedroom where he curls up in the crook of my husband’s arm, calm and untroubled for now.

 

Security blankets help keep me calm

Security blankets help keep me calm

This scene, or one like it, plays out often in our home.  Muggsy began exhibiting signs of separation anxiety two years ago after we lost Molly, our older cat.  She was there for the first fifteen years of his life, a nurturing big sister who was always within reach.  After her passing we debated on bringing a new companion into the home, but we ruled it out.  Based on his advanced age of seventeen, his small stature (he weighs in at a mighty five pounds), and his nervous personality we decided it would be too invasive to bring another cat into the home.

Our anxious boy requires a ton of attention.  He can be calm for long periods of time, and then he will of a sudden be overwhelmed by his need for us.  He wakes us up several times during the night, meowing a panicky series of crescendoing meows until one of us reaches out to stroke his head and gently shush him.  He takes effort, and he takes work, but he is worth every bit of exertion.  Even when he is on nervous overdrive he is the sweetest, gentlest little soul, and he has gifted us with nearly two decades of love.  In return, I vow to give him as much of my time as he needs.

 

Muggsy in anxiety overdrive

Muggsy in anxiety overdrive

Something amazing happens when you care for a pet with an anxiety disorder.  You discover a bit about yourself and your capacity as a caregiver.  You are presented with the opportunity to grow and become a better person.  You take what you have learned from this little animal who depends on you for comfort and you rethink the way you look at people.

I have come to realize that I have an ample supply of patience, and if that runs out I have a store of reserve forbearance.  I have learned to pay attention to the signs that people put out and to recognize when someone is in distress.  I no longer feel the need to snap if a person seems hesitant, frightened, or unsure of himself.  I understand now that some people have internal struggles that are beyond their control.  I find that I want to be a port in their storm, the same calming, soothing presence that I am for my Muggsy.  I hope that I can offer one small gesture of kindness and understanding that may in some way provide the slightest bit of reassurance or relief.

I am not well-versed in the struggles that come along with mental illness.  I am fortunate in that other than rare, stress-induced panic attacks I have not been directly touched by it as many others have.  Likewise, I have not had firsthand experience in caring for a loved one with a disability.  I do know, though, that thanks to my sweet Muggsy I will take care to be aware and empathetic of those who fight their own battles each day.  I vow that I will give you as much time as you need.

Now if you will excuse me I have a fretful four-legged little dude who needs my attention.

Pffffttttt to bad days!

Pffffttttt to bad days!

 

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43 thoughts on “How My Anxiety-Riddled Cat Made Me a Better Person

    • I wouldn’t change my cat, either. He is such a unique little bundle. I have considered a calming aid, like maybe a kitty melatonin, but he has a delicate tummy so not sure that would work.

      The odd thing is that due to some events happening here I had a mini-anxiety attack this evening. We help each other out, as I’m sure you and your dog do.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. He’s such a cute little cat! I have two very overweight cats who just walk around the house making as much noise as possible because they’re hungry. All the time.
    I have a friend whose dog suffered quite badly from separation anxiety because she was rescued and her previous owner often left her outside. I think she is a lot better now, but there are sometimes moments when she needs more attention.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Our Molly was a big fat ball of love, but oh boy when she was looking for food there was no peace to be had! I can totally relate to that!

      I would imagine that rescues and those animals who were neglected would have serious issues with anxiety. It’s heartbreaking to think about it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. You’re a good kitty mama.
    I’d never considered this, but after reading your post today, I wonder if my older cat may have had this sorta thing for a spell after my oldest cat passed.
    Now I’m wondering if it’s inevitable…

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  3. I loved this post. I love your big heart and I am so thankful that you have the patience for your four-legged friend. I have two cats and one is very jealous of the other, so I have to take extra care of my girl. Thanks for writing this post!! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • They have the some of the same personality quirks as people do, don’t they? Good for you for recognizing her needs and taking special care! Dealing with his issues has opened my eyes to what people with anxiety disorders must face on a daily basis. I hope it has made me more compassionate, too. 🙂

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  4. What a beautiful post! Muggsy is so cute and your words show the love and compassion you share! Indeed I can see how Muggsy helps to teach life lessons with humans and pets alike!
    Adorable pics too…I especially like the security blanket one!

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  5. I am a dog person, but your feline sounds too cute. I never had a pet – but always wanted one! Playing with my cousin’s dogs always brings out a side of me that is patient and gentle. Thank you for sharing this 🙂

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  6. You really do seem to have ample supplies of both patience and forbearance from what I’ve read on your blog posts….you’re a most impressive, girl, Karen, and I think Muggsy is a very lucky cat!

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  7. Loved reading this! Poor little Muggsy. I have a little cat who is super clingy because his mother rejected him at birth. It takes a lot of patience but it’s always worth it. It’s nice to know Muggsy is in good hands, you seem like you’re doing a great job.

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  8. Aw, bless. At least you are able to reassure him.
    I presently have a dog curled up alongside me with her chin on my knee, front two feet on my shin and her back feet across my toes. She’s fast asleep but I guess I’m not going anywhere without her knowing it. 🙂

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  9. I also have a kitty with an anxiety disorder. Rocky never comes near strangers, even if he’s seen them in the house before. He stays under our bed most of the time. The vet gave me special food for “stress control” which makes my husband roll his eyes. Oh well. Animals feel a lot. Muggsy is lucky he has such a kind “Mom.”

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    • Aw, it sounds like Rocky has a kind, loving “mom” as well. Muggsy was traumatized last week by workmen coming in and out for three days. It was not good. I wonder what’s in the stress control food. That is interesting enough for me to check it out. Of course a trip to the vet ratchets up the anxiety big time…

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  10. Hi, I wanted to tell you that I nominated you for the No Strings Attached Award. I am having trouble getting everyone’s blog to appear on the post, so I am letting you know here.

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    • Hi Charles,
      Thank you, I appreciate the nomination! Congratulations on receiving this award- I enjoy reading your blog and learning about your characters and your creative process. 🙂
      Best,
      Karen

      Like

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