The Sassy Sandpiper: My Therapist Has Fur
The Sassy Sandpiper considers the benefits of fuzzy love.
By M.R. Wilson, Columnist, TB Reporter
I once wrote, “I need dogs for my heart, cats for my intellect and birds for my soul.”
Dogs and birds blessed most of my life; cats, however, only during childhood. A touch of synchronicity made me a crazy cat lady five summers ago and not long thereafter, a deliberately crazier cat lady.
Go ahead. Roll your eyes.
A growing body of research confirms the role that furred friends play in enhancing our health and well-being. For me, it’s not only companionship. My cats are a therapeutic team outranking counseling and medication by a long shot. With as little effort as the twitch of a whisker, they are role models, Zen masters, mood elevators, blood pressure moderators, acrobats, comedians and entertainers. They have taught me to meditate. They instruct me on mindfulness: “When you drink tea, drink tea.” In other words, stop multi-tasking. No self-respecting cat would be caught stalking a lizard and grooming itself simultaneously. To run my fingers through cat fur is an instant Nirvana; the healing vibrations of cat purrs can cure what ails you.
Don’t believe me? Curious, even a little? Do a search on YouTube for cat videos or better yet, visit a shelter or pet charity that lets you play with cats and kittens, no obligation.
You will soon observe that many cats, if not most, defy the stereotype of an aloof, disdainful housemate who thinks of you only as a servant and would just as soon devour you as you slept. Cats are consummate predators, after all. Only a thin layer of domesticity lies between kneading a cozy blanket (or your stomach) and the wild feline heart.
While it’s mostly a group therapy approach, some of my cats are specialists. Marigold is the pulmonologist, sitting on my chest each night and checking my breathing by putting her face to mine. Pixel’s place is on my left side, sprawled halfway across my chest. He’s the cardiologist. Panther’s area of expertise is the gut and bladder, landing squarely on top of me during deep sleep, checking to see if I need a visit to the bathroom. Believe me, I do. Ohm is the meditative one, stationed quietly nearby, staring at me. Bruiser reminds me to honor the personal space of others. He might clamp down on my arm with teeth and claws if I pet him while he’s grooming. Mama Cat Boa is the primary care physician, sensing any distress. If I don’t express it, she will, all too often barfing up her latest food and beverage.
Cat therapy is usually more subtle.
It’s a look in their eyes, the slow blink that some studies conclude means “I love and trust you.” It’s the “head butt,” a push against my forehead with theirs, enough to knock off my glasses, accompanied by uproarious purring. It’s a paw that reaches up to gently touch my cheek.
It all amounts to unconditional love. There is no better therapy.
Main photos shows Ohm, left, and Pixel. Photos courtesy of M.R. Wilson
Sassy Sandpiper | M.R. Wilson | Pets | Cats | Health | Tampabay News
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