Monday, 7 October 2019

More Than Just a Cat: My cats have helped me through my darkest days

Blogger Aimee Wilson explains how cats are more than just pets, they’ve helped her cope through mental health struggles and a hospital stay. 

Growing up, I always had pets; gerbils, rabbits, hamsters, fish… then, when I was about twelve, my dream came true and my mum finally agreed that we could get a cat! Saffy was like a little companion or friend for the evenings after school when my mum would still be at work. And when I went through a trauma at the age of 15, she could be there for me in ways that no human ever could. When I’d have flashbacks and find myself reliving the trauma, stroking Saffy’s fur helped soothe me and ground me back to reality so that I recognised that I was safe now.

a black cat with red collar sitting on a pink blanket
Saffy helped Aimee through her trauma 

After my mental health dramatically deteriorated as a result of the trauma, I was admitted to a specialist psychiatric hospital in 2012 that was over 100 miles from home. Of course, I missed my friends and family, but I also missed Saffy. My mum would send me photos and cute videos of her on social media so that I could still see her and that hugely helped to serve as a reminder that she – and many others – had been supportive through my darkest days. I owed it to them – and myself – to put all the effort that I had into working towards my recovery and discharge from hospital.

When, after about a year, I finally started to notice improvements in my mental health, my mum came up with the brilliant idea of buying a cat collar to remind me of my ultimate recovery goal of having my own home with my own cat. That collar hung from a photo frame in my hospital room for a further 18 months before I was finally discharged, and it ended up around my kitten’s neck.

woman holding a tabby kitten
Kitten Dolly made Aimee's new house a home 

Getting my own kitten, Dolly, was both an easy and hard decision; on the one hand, I knew that I needed company in moving from having people around me 24/7 to being in my own home, and on the other hand; I didn’t want it to look as though I was trying to replace Saffy. This thought became even harder when, one Christmas, Saffy began struggling to breathe and had to be put to sleep. I think that being in my own home and having Dolly made losing Saffy a little less painful because I still had a cat around. It was a lot harder on my mum though, whose only company for the years I’d been in hospital was Saffy, so she got another cat; Millie.

tabby cat sitting on Christmas presents under a Christmas tree
Dolly was a lively companion through Aimee's recovery

Dolly was a completely different cat to Saffy though! She was much more lively and friendly and having her by my side through my mental health recovery meant the world to me. When, in October 2018, her organs began to fail, I was in pieces; I still had my bunny, Pixie, but my house wasn’t a home without a cat in it! So, it took less than a week for me to adopt Emmy, my little calico.

young woman holding a calico cat
Aimee now shares her home with the lovely Emmy 

It was so much more rewarding to adopt rather than ‘shop’ for a cat because it felt as though I was doing a good deed and that thought helped me whenever I missed Dolly. It’s also nice to be able to give Emmy a good life full of everything she could ever want after her rough start of being found wandering the streets, alone, at only a few weeks old. All cats deserve love but to have Emmy come from a such a horrible beginning into a home that is full to the brim with kindness, care and love is really special.

calico cat stretched out in its back and yawning
Emmy is settled after having a tough start to life

It’s an absolute honour to be asked by the Cats Protection team to share my story on how cats have benefited my life and I hope that if readers can get just one thing from this piece, then I’d like it to be the knowledge that your cat is more than ‘just a cat’.

Let us know what your marvellous moggy means to you with #MoreThanJustACat and discover more heartwarming stories at www.cats.org.uk/my-cat-is

3 comments:

  1. I can relate to this so much my cats have also helped me in mental health recovery and when I was hospitalised knowing they needed me back home made me determined to get out of the psyche ward to be back with my cats xx

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  2. What a sad but beautiful story and how lucky for any cat who finds you as their loving owner, will have a wonderful happy life. I wish you all the luck and love in the world and I hope you go from strength to strength Aimee.

    My first cat Mr Tom was from cat protection Glasgow, He was 15 yrs old and lost him at 18 due to health problems. He was a gorgeous wee gentleman and miss him dearly. He was in the centre for around 7 months after being brought in as a stray. My second wee lady was only 5 yrs old (wee lady Sox), when she lay down and died on my neighbours driveway. I was told it could have been heart failure or a blood clot. I lost another family member as we Mr Tom. They give us so much unconditional love. ♥ ♥ xxxxxx

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  3. I’ve had my cat Martha for a year she’s such good company . She sleeps on my bed sits on my knee and is a real character . She’s really come on her personality is cheeky but she’s a gentle girl so lovely ��

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