How My Emotional Support Cat Became My Best Friend
I’m the last person you’d expect to adopt a cat. I grew up with two adorable small dogs, and I was always unsure around cats, not wanting to risk the wrath of the claws. When I got to college, it seemed like everyone I knew loved cats, and the more time I spent with other people’s Emotional Support Animals (ESAs), the more I began to see the feline beauty. An animal lover like me couldn’t help but fall in love with their big eyes and cute little toe beans. The scratches weren’t that bad anyway, the claws are a minor side effect in the grand scheme of kitty cuteness.
I first realized that animals could really help my mental health after school was moved online at the beginning of the pandemic. My little dog, Sadie, followed me everywhere when I was home. She became my sidekick, even during my virtual therapy sessions. Her constant presence was comforting in a way, but I didn’t quite understand why.
At first, I thought it was because I am someone who really struggles to be left alone. I get fidgety and anxious when I’m suddenly forced to be alone with my thoughts. If I have nothing to stimulate me I get quite dark at times, and it becomes an unhealthy cycle of depression and anxiety. When I broached the subject with my therapist, she seemed to perfectly understand why Sadie made me feel better. She taught me about something called Co-Regulation. According to zerotothree.org , Co-Regulation can be defined as “as warm and responsive interactions that provide the support, coaching, and modeling children need to “understand, express, and modulate their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors” .
I realized that my whole life, I’ve always used my dogs to corregulate. the realization was huge for me. I mean to the point where even the physical symptoms of my anxiety, the headaches, racing heart, shaking, could be at least a little subsided when I could interact with them.
Fast forward three months, and I was heading back to campus for the year. I was most nervous not for the new regulations and policies, but for being without Sadie. I became so used to the safety of always having the little furball running around my ankles that I couldn’t imagine how I’d fare without her. That was probably the most tearful goodbye I’ve ever experienced.
The first few months at school were really hard and full of a lot of changes to my life. I lost friends, was dealing with the new mental health effects of COVID, and was generally feeling pretty lonely and lost in life. I felt like I was at rock bottom, and I didn’t know what to do.
That’s when I knew I needed to adopt a cat of my own. I realized I was desperately missing the security of having another life following me around. In a weird way, having another soul relying on me to survive helped my depression, it provided me with a constant reason to get out of bed in the morning, and a positive distraction when my thoughts became too dark to handle.
There was nothing happier for me than seeing my cat, Lucy Gray, grow each and every day. Makes me laugh all the time, just by doing something small, like pulling my dresser drawers open or licking my face to wake me up in the morning. I start my day with her, feeding her, playing with her, and it sets me up for a great day. Then I end my day by curling up in bed with her and no matter how hard of a day it has been, I feel like I’m not alone in the world.
Are there cons to having a cat? Sure. She screams at me if i’m even a second late to feed her, and the litter box situation is a constant battle, but at the end of the day I want to take good care of her because she takes good care of me, even though she doesn’t know it.