Pets and Mental Health – Bipolar II Disorder and the Cat Effect

It has only been one week since Neko the cat has been in my life, but it’s been a wonderful week. If you haven’t read my other recent blog post, Neko is a beautiful three year old domestic short hair cat that my partner and I adopted from our local RSPCA shelter.

In a few of my depressed moods this past week, she has kept me company in bed by sleeping on top of the blankets. When I forget to eat regular meals, she reminds me to feed her and in turn also gets me in the kitchen so we can both eat. During times when my mind is in a fog and I can’t think or focus she has even approached me to play with her by playfully biting my fingers or rubbing her body against my leg to ask for affection. I’ve noticed that she actually helps me bring my thoughts outside of myself so I can refocus and function, if that makes sense; kind of like a reminder to practice mindfulness that comes in a furry four-legged form.

Having a pet for the first time, as in my case, my first time having a cat, can feel a bit overwhelming, especially when I feel like I have enough trouble taking care of myself let alone another living being. But I can honestly say that having a cat has impacted my bipolar disorder in a surprisingly positive way. Sure, there’s poop to be scooped when there wasn’t before and you are suddenly aware that there’s another living being that you’re responsible for, but overall, it’s a pretty wonderful adventure that I highly recommend.

The feels when my cat jumps in my lap and meows up at me when I’m feeling down and out, when she feels​ the need to accompany me each and every time I go to the toilet, and just the feeling of unconditional love that emanates from her, words really can’t describe.

I used to forget to eat, or just not bother, but with a cat, she helps keep me in routine simply because I have to get up and feed her several times a day. Sure, sometimes it might be an hour or two out of schedule, but I still get up and do it as she gently meows and encourages me. I watch her eat and try to get her to eat slowly without inhaling all her food at once. She encourages me to be better simply through the act of feeding her to in turn, feed and nurture myself too.

The only negative aspect of having a cat and having a mental illness for me is that I’ve noticed I developed a bit of guilt when I feel like I don’t do things right or I mess up. Guilt when my emotions are dulled and I can’t return her affections. Guilt when I can only muster up the energy to clean her kitty litter trays once a day instead of twice. I have found that although I’ve felt this in varying degrees when I interact with her, I’ve found that on the whole, my cat actually enforces me to do better and to be better.

What do I mean, you ask?

Well, having my cat around me this week has encouraged me to overcome some of my low moods and low energy to actually function in a productive way that reinforces a good routine i.e. feeding her, remembering​ to eat for myself, cleaning her litter trays, and even overcoming my anxiety about going outside to throw out the trash.

I know it has only been a week, but I am hopeful to what the future brings with a furry feline in my life. I feel like a solid routine might be more achievable now that I am accountable for looking after another living being. I want to take the very best care of her that I can and all the while she inadvertently helps me improve bit by bit and be the very best I can be too.

I hope this was helpful to you, especially if you’re looking to adopt a pet into your life too. I can’t recommend it enough. You drastically improve the life of an animal in need of love and in turn, maybe nurture your own heart and mind too.

Thanks for reading.

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