Selina Martineau
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Cat Therapy

How My New Kitten Helped Me Fight Depression

Orange Pekoe

In September, I decided I would try and get my life together. After a bad bout of seasonal depression last winter, I thought it would be great to try therapy. I was being proactive, fighting off negative feelings before they could even begin. 

What I didn't anticipate was getting worse. This is in no way me trying to discourage going to therapy because for many people it is absolutely vital. However, my three months seeing a psychologist didn't go as planned. 

My particular therapist was looking for fast solutions, digging into trauma I wasn't ready to face, and getting upset when I wasn't making fast enough progress. It ended up being a stressful experience because we just weren't a good match. 

Then I made the rash decision to get a cat. I stopped by the cat cafe in my city just for a visit and ended up falling head-over-heels for a tiny orange kitten named Laffy Taffy. By the end of the day, I had applied for adoption online and gotten a phone call for a background check; I was the proud owner of a new cat. 

The first step was a new name. The sweet Laffy Taffy soon became Orange Pekoe, shortened to just Pekoe. He was a pale orange bundle of energy that had a personality much too big for my small bedroom. The first night, he proved to be extremely friendly by sleeping directly on my face. Had he slept the whole night, it would have been no problem, but the small kitten must have woken me five or six times because he wanted to play with a grey plush mouse I bought from IKEA. 

I was losing sleep, and it turned out that the cat allergies I'd had as a child had not actually faded. Within a couple of days, the air in my apartment was infused with cat hair and my nose was a perpetually drippy faucet. The kitten demanded all of my attention, eating everything in sight, scratching my furniture, and crying for more food right after he'd emptied his bowl. With schoolwork and work, I had barely a second for myself. 

I went back to my therapist and he questioned my decision to get a cat. I'd have to be on allergy medication all the time and that could get expensive. At the time, I was starting to have second thoughts. 

As the weeks went by, I cared for my new son. I forgot to clean his litterbox a couple of days in a row because I couldn't get out of bed. I nearly cried because I felt I was unfit to be responsible for him when I was barely responsible enough to care for myself. But even when I came home late and left his water bowl empty for a couple hours, he still would cuddle up in my arms and fall asleep purring. 

I had to feed him four times a day, rationing his food into small portions so he wouldn't get indigestion. And when he'd eat, I'd remember to cook for myself. Before bed, he'd hit what I came to call the "Witching Hour" where he'd get a burst of energy and run around the house. The only way to dispel it; playtime. I found myself having to take breaks from my work to play with him. Then, when he was all tired out, he'd curl up on my chest and let me pet him. His life was a routine, and so mine became one too. 

What charts and instructions from my therapist couldn't do was make me want to change. But I realized that I'd rather die than let any harm come to the little furball in my life, and so I had to have the energy to care for him. I got a prescription for allergy medication and started to build up my immunity so I could feel better around him. 

Now, when I'm sad or lonely, Pekoe is there unconditionally. It's hard to hate myself when I have this sweet thing in my life that loves me so much. Certainly, I'm far from cured, but I'm able to manage my life and symptoms better all because of a small change. In fact, he's on my lap right now as I write this; right where he belongs.

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