[Life] Mental Health Matters #4: It's All About Coco

When I first joined the kink scene I was fascinated by how many cat people there were. As a lifelong dog lover, I had never owned a cat and was somewhat baffled by why people thought they were better than dogs. That said I am a huge animal lover and will cuddle anything that will pay me attention, including non-furry friends like snakes and lizards. So it’s not that I disliked cats, I just didn’t ‘get them’ in the same way I did dogs.

When my marriage ended I sadly had to re-home my dog, it was unavoidable for many reasons and made me so sad. Thankfully she was re-homed quickly and I was certain to make sure she found a good home. While I missed her personality and seeing her little face each day I did feel a weight had been lifted due to being relieved of an additional responsibility.

Please remember this blog post is about mental health, so it is important to me that I am honest. I don’t want animal lovers everywhere thinking I tossed her aside because I didn’t like having to look after her. I loved her to bits, but dogs are hard work and when you aren’t in the best state of mind, looking after yourself is hard enough. Add a toddler and a very energetic dog into the mix and things begin to become a struggle.

I missed the companionship of having a dog and thought it would be wonderful when I was asked to dog sit for my Dad’s partner. I was wrong. Somewhere along the line, the long term company of dogs began to raise my anxiety levels. I still love giving them strokes and attention when I visit, and there’s a dog at Bakji’s house that always makes me smile. When I have to be their caregiver though I start to crumble into a big ball of stress and anxiety. This is noticeable to point Bakji told me I should decline further requests to dog sit, in his serious and stern voice, that’s when I know something is in my best interest.

When my Dad asked me if I could take a cat into my home for a couple of months I was dubious. I absolutely thought it was going to stress me out, but she used to live in my flat (though not with me, but I was known to her) and it was assumed her owner would be absent for a fair while (hospital stay) and I felt sorry for her being in limbo. So she came to stay.

What happened was a surprise to me. Her presence in my life brought me a new level of calm. The cat cuddles and the purring made me feel so much better. When she left a lot sooner than we had thought she would I honestly felt a little bit lost, add to that my son had decided he too was very fond of having a cat in the house, I felt there was only one thing to do … we needed our own feline companion. I am fairly certain she brought some kind of cat voodoo with her, working her witchy cat magic on me so that I would fall in line with the cat plan to dominate the human race and turn us into their food and fuss minions.

Voodoo or not though, I started to think about the right kind of cat for us. I decided a kitten was out of the question. As cute as they are I felt like kitten frenzy might not be what I was looking for. I wanted a grown-up cat, who was affectionate playful and good with children. I started gathering information for local cat re-homing centres and we soon found ourselves having a wander around one looking at all the cats that needed homes. I honestly thought it would take us a few visits to find our new friend and was prepared to take our time to find the right fit, for both us and the cat.

What happened though was we found Coco at the first shelter we visited. The moment we approached her door, she jumped down from her resting place and came over to say hi. When we went in to say a proper hello she was interested and friendly and I knew that she was the cat for us. She has been home with us since January 24th and it has been such a pleasure having her make our house a home.

How could I not bring this face home?

She was an indoor cat before we got her, and while she has the opportunity to go outside now she isn’t that fussed, which means I have her company for most of the time I’m home. Seeing her little face when I return from work, or just having her wander into the room after a little snooze just lights me up. 

I’ve been having lots of deep thoughts about how I feel love compared to other people, and how I recognise it and whether I connect with love and affection in the way I should. Loving a cat has proven to be free from all that complexity though and as a result seems to have made it easier for me to respond to loving people in a more positive manner too.

IMG_6664.JPGI love sitting with Coco and brushing her, she is super fluffy and needs brushing daily or her fur gets all tangled. Providing her with all her daily needs instead of weighing down on me seems to lighten my load somewhat. The kind of comfort and happiness she has brought into my life is quite childlike and innocent in its nature. 

I think to anyone who doesn’t recognise how anxiety and depression can manifest, it’s hard to explain the mental shift having Coco has brought. I’d imagine that to many people this just sounds like the regular happiness of having an animal in your life. It has been more than that for me though.

Before I started taking the Sertraline prescribed to me by the doctor I felt like I was trapped down a deep, dark hole. I could hear the noise of the outside world above me, but I couldn’t find my way out of the hole to join in properly. The Sertraline helped me build a ladder, and step by step I started to find my way up, out of the hole and into the world. Every now and again I would find things along the way to strengthen the rungs of my ladder; exercise, supplements and healthy eating are a few of those things. Coco seemed to know a shortcut though. It’s as if she laughed at me for building a ladder, and pointed out there had been a door I could use all along if I just knew how to find it. While I am still building and reinforcing my mental health ladder, I am also being guided through the door into mental well-being by my feline guide.

Coco also helps with small human’s homework

To anyone who thinks cat ownership (do not tell Coco I said I’m her owner, it so doesn’t work that way with cats) sounds wonderful and magical, it is, but let me be clear, she is still an arsehole, like virtually all cats it seems. She has forced me to rearrange my house, meows at the most inconvenient times, great if 4am wake up calls are your thing and basically seems to view me as her human slave. She is so flippin’ cute though that I’m happy to do as I’m told and follower her training regime to get me to be a suitable human for cohabiting with a cat.

Financially there is an investment too. Many of our local shelters no longer work on a ‘donate what you can’ basis when you re-home an animal from them. They mostly have set fees that allow them to continue doing the work they do, so they can find the best homes for the animals in their care. There is also vets trips, cat litter and food to consider, amongst other things. It isn’t a decision I made lightly, but it is a decision I am so thankful I made.

As an additional thought, for anyone who might read this and has been considering or is now considering giving a home to a cat. Please consider a black one. Our local shelters are made up of somewhere in the range of 60% – 80% black cats at any given time. The ones that aren’t black tend to be reserved and re-homed far quicker. When I saw how many black cats were waiting for homes there was not much chance of me taking home any other colour. I adore my black cat and what she lacks in colour variety she more than makes up for in personality.

I would love to hear from anyone who has found animals of any type to be a positive influence on their mental health. Links to blog posts you may have written on this topic would be fab too. While finding a feline friend is what works for me, I know that for many other people dogs are absolutely their saving grace and I want you all to know I am still delighted by pooches, just in a different way these days. Bunnies, guinea pigs, snakes, horses, chickens, ducks, pigs, cows, goats and many other animals also fill my heart with joy. I just don’t have the space for them all, so it’s just me and my cute as can be Coco for now.

Update: Since I wrote this post we have sadly said goodbye to Coco. She was only 3 years old but got very poorly, very quickly and the vets were unable to save her. I felt utterly lost without her and I was devastated, not help by how sudden it all happened. For a while, I felt sad looking at other cats and felt too nervous to rescue another. Then I saw a picture of Daisy on Facebook, urgently looking for a home and I could resist! I think I possibly have an addiction to the black fully felines, but I am definitely okay with that.


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2 thoughts on “[Life] Mental Health Matters #4: It's All About Coco

  1. Cats can be a pain in the ass, but they are extremely calming creatures. They let you know that the world isn’t as scary as you might think it is and at the same time purr you through your problems. I have always said that if it weren’t for the cat(s) in my life, my mental state would have frayed beyond help a couple of times. 🙂 Coco is adorable.

  2. I’m very happy to read this… the pain of depression is real and you are brave to share your journey.

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