How My Cat Helps Me With My Mental Health

my dilute tortoiseshell cat sitting in a sink and looking off to the side
Carmella, my dilute tortoiseshell kitty.

Cats are my favorite animal and always have been, ever since I was a little girl. They’re a revered and sacred animal, seemingly across the globe. It’s easy to see why! They’re so freaking cute and sweet. Okay, most of the time. The rest of the time, they’re little shit-starters who make messes and pretend they don’t know what they did wrong. But they know–oh, they know.

I only had cats as a child, but didn’t immediately get one when I moved out. That was for various reason. It was certainly on my mind more and more as the years went by. It never seemed feasible. Until now. I adopted my first cat as an adult–Carmella!

(Note: She is named as a feminized and shortened version of the Italian word “caramello”–not the character for Castlevania or The Sopranos. I thought I was being unique.)

I got Carmella when she was about 12 weeks old.

my dilute tortoiseshell kitten Carmella when I first got her. She's sitting on my lap and looking right at me.

She challenged me a lot with her hyperactive behavior, vocal personality, and curiosity (which led to some destructive streaks, both then and now). But she was also a lot of fun and made me happy. I couldn’t stay mad at that cute, sweet face. Especially when she loved to lay on my chest and purr really loudly.

I didn’t realize how much she helped my mental health. Here’s how she helped me:

Pets provide companionship

The obvious reason to get a pet is that you want a buddy! My cat has definitely made bad days better, and helped put a smile on my face when I hadn’t smiled all day. It’s great to have someone there to greet you every day, happy to see you, and ready to curl up with you at any moment. Her purrs of contentment when I’m giving her affection or holding her make my heart soar. I live alone currently and even though it’s just me and her in my room, I don’t feel lonely at all. When I’m having bad days or even slipping back into depression, she’s there to pick up my spirits just a little and remind me I’m not alone.

Pets give you a sense of responsibility

Having to take care of something or someone else forces you to rise to the occasion. It’s not for your sake that you do it, but for theirs.

Having this responsibility is good for your mental health because it helps you from falling into a rut or withdrawing completely from civilization. I know when I’m feeling like isolating from everyone or I’m starting to feel bad about myself or my life, I will neglect household chores, I will ignore everyone, I will let it all go to hell. But having Carmella breaks me out of that cycle.

A pet gives you a purpose when you feel you don’t have one. I might be feeling hopeless or lost when it comes to my career or life’s direction, but I know for sure Carmella needs to be fed and given plenty of attention and routine checkups. I know I can’t leave her alone for too long because she’s a living creature who needs care! Responsibility is something that gives me a sense of duty and helps me keep going on days I don’t want to keep going.

Pets provide you with a routine

Routine is essential for mental health care. Your own personal treatment and self-care are important, but general routines for your day and your home are equally important. I find that having a routine with my chores and household tasks also helps me stave off depression, restless and empty feelings, or just general ickiness and muck that I tend to fall into sometimes.

With a pet, not only do you have a sense of responsibility in caring for this creature, but you create a routine with them. I feed Carmella at specific times of the day. I play with her at various points in the evening, especially right before bed. I make sure to give her plenty of attention. I take her out to the porch frequently. We do this on the weekend, too. Itlike having the stability of this routine throughout the week.

I’d love to see pictures of your pets! Do you think they help with your mental health?

Published by Jessica

Writer, YouTuber, streamer, gamer, yogi, self-improver--still trying to figure it all out

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