The Babies of the Fur
I grew up with animals. I do not remember a time in my life when I didn’t have them around. Being alone most of the time, the companionship meant a lot to me. It wasn’t until later in my life that I figured out that the animals around me meant so much more than that.
Those who know me know that I have a weakness for cats. Though nowhere near ‘Crazy Cat Lady’ level, if I could bring all the homeless kittens home, I would. But three is enough of a handful for now. They also fit very nicely together when I am not at my best. You see, cats know things. And mine know when I hurt.
This realization started when I was pregnant with my first child and I was very sick. My cat at the time, Kira, used to sit on my belly. I mean she would push and poke and fight so she could cuddle near that tiny human being. When he came home from the hospital, Kira would regularly sleep next to or under his bassinet. She became his guardian continuing the job she took on when I was pregnant and sick and he was in trouble.
Now, 21 years later, I am still sick and I am the one in trouble. A chronic pain sufferer, I am still the mama to three cats and one dog who thinks he is a 57 pound cat. Studies have proven that pets of any kind help reduce depression. The sound of a purring cat can reduce anxiety and promote sleep. Studies also show that pets that have fur and can be stroked can reduce pain levels in those of us that deal with pain on a daily basis.
So here’s the thing those of you out there who do not experience chronic pain may not know. Pets tune in to our bodies. During these past six years, I have had some of the worst pain experiences and flare ups of my entire disease process. Each and every time, my cats came to cuddle me. Not with me, on me. Quite literally on the point where my body hurt. They surrounded my knee when I fractured my kneecap taking turns draping themselves on top of the brace. They have piled on my stomach, my chest and my head. They regularly sleep on my hips and my shoulders and when my hands hurt, they force their heads under them so I have no choice but to pet them. They become a fuzzy, purring masseuse kneading areas of pain with their tiny paws. And in a the world where many of our human friends don’t know how to treat us or are afraid to touch us when we hurt, all this contact is priceless!
But pets can do more than just seek out and surround areas of physical pain. My little cat, Marbles, is able to recognize my emotional needs; a trait usually attributed to dogs. She’s the one who will come running whenever I raise my voice. She puts her paws on my face and licks what tears I am able to cry when I am upset. She also defuses my anger by biting my head. She stays in my lap until I am settled. Marbles knows these mood swings are not good for me so she does what she can to end them.
It’s no surprise that so many of us with chronic illnesses are also chronic animal lovers. Our condition gives us the ability to see into another side of the animal world. Where empathy and caring are center stage and where our beloved pets return our love and care when we need it most. Where it isn’t human to animal but one soul to another. And where we could learn much from a 7 pound fur-baby who hates to see her mama cry.