Tag Archives: Pets

How Our Cat Barry Became Our Pet

This week on Mama’s Losin’ It, the Writer’s Workshop prompts were beautiful. One of them is to share eight things you accomplished in the last week. I may write on that one later, but today, I’m writing on another one, which is to tell the story of how our cat Barry became our pet.

My husband had always recommended that we get a cat to be my companion when I’d go live with him. In the summer of 2013, he had settled in our apartment and hoped I’d soon join him. His mother, who works for the animal shelter, at the time was raising two kiittens, who were too young to be kept at the shelter at only a few weeks old. One o them, the most hyperactive of the two, we named Henk, while the other we named Harry. My mother-in-law recommended we get Harry, the quieter – or should I say less hyperactive? – one.

We got Harry when he was three months old in August of that year. As it turned out, he was rather the slightly less troublesome one than the quieter one of the pair, as he still ran around the house all the time, threw our belongings from tables onto the floor and climbed into and onto furniture.

In the spring of 2014, my husband figureed that maybe a playmate for Harry would help him calm down. His oldest sister, who also works at the shelter, went on the lookout for another cat for us. This became Barry. Yes, we purposefully named Barry this to rhyme with Harry. In fact, my husband half-jokingly gave me the choice between naming him Barry or Heinrich, and I obviously went with Barry.

Harry and Barry didn’t get along very well from the beginning. My husband thought of rehoming Harry to his sister a few times, but often missed him when he was away at hers. So Harry and Barry both moved to our current home with my husband in December of 2015.

The next spring, Barry got a non-bacterial UTI that was most likely stress-related. At first, we thought Barry’s stress came from wanting to go outside and not being allowed to, as he’d go onto the roof and not get off again. This probably was a factor indeed. It quickly becam apparent though that Harry was the main source of stress. While Barry was still recovering from his UTI, Harry started a play-fight with him that was rather bad. This led my husband to finally decide enough was enough. Harry was rehomed to my sister-in-law. She also has two other cats, but they apparetly don’t mind hyperactive Harry and one of them in fact plays with him a lot.

I finally moved in with my husband last May. To be honest, I’m so relieved to just have Barry with us, as Harry was a lot more of a handful. When I first got my iPhone, I worried that Barry would shove it off my table, but he never did *knock on wood*. With Harry on the other hand, I had to pack away all small-enough-to-shove items of value when not using them. That would’ve been quite a stressor to me now that I live here full-time.

Barry was a rather reclusive cat when we first got him and for a long time after. Not the ideal companion for lonesome at home me. Now though, he likes to keep me company even if he still isn’t the kind of cat to like being picked up. He even likes sleeping in our bed at night.

Mama’s Losin’ It

Animals and Mental Health #Write31Days

31 Days of Mental Health

Welcome to day 21 in the 31-day writing challenge on mental health. Today on a mental health E-mail list I’m a member of, the daily question for discussion was about animals. This inspired me to write a post on how animals can impact mentnal health and help people who struggle with mental illness.

There are many ways in which animals, and especialy pets, can help someone with a mental health problem. For example:

  • Pets provide uncomplicated love. While your relationships with family and friends might be strained because of your mental illness, a pet doesn’t care whether you hurt its feelings and doesn’t give you unwanted advice.

  • Pets give you a sense of responsibility. While pets do not ask for much, they require a certain level of care. This may seem overwhelming when you’re struggling with mental illness, but it can actually help you focus on something positive instead of on your negative mood.

  • Pets require you to get moving. While becoming physically active may seem hard when you’re in the pit of depression or another mental illness, it will actually help improve your mood. Having a pet who requires you to be active, such as a dog, can really help you get motivated to get your butt off the couch.

  • Pets help establsih a routine. They need regular feeding, walking or other care. A proper daily routine is good for your mental health.

  • With a pet, you’re never alone. You may withdraw from contact with friends or relatives, but your pet is always by your side.

  • Pets can help you engage in social interaction. Pets can be an easy topic to talk about that is not laden with negativity. Pets also often function as ice-breakers, for example when you are walking your dog or waiting at the vet’s. Even when your mental illness makes you appear reclusive, people will start interacting with your pet.

  • Touching pets can be soothing and thereby improve your mental health.

The benefits of pets can be even greater when the pet is trained as a service or therapy animal. Pet therapy, also known as animal-assisted therapy, is a form of therapy by which a specially trained pet interacts with individuals with mental health problems. The benfit of animal-assisted therapy over human interaction is that an animal accepts the individual as they are without judging or being threatening. Like I said before, they don’t care whetehr their feelings are hurt. People with emotional difficulties in particular often find it easier to trust pets than humans.

Like I said, animals can also be an ice-breaker, allowing the mentally ill person to open up more eaisly when interacting with the pet and its handler.

Psychiatric service dogs can be helpful to people with post-traumatic stress disorder and dissociative identity disorder, among others. They can, for instance, signal when a person with PTSD or DID is going to dissociate or have a flashback. They can then comfort the person or alert someone else. PTSD service dogs can sense when the sufferer is experiencing a nightmare and then wake them up. They can also enhance the sufferer’s feelings of safety by for example keeping strangers at a safe distance while at the same time encouraging social interaction.

Emotional support or companion animals do not provide any specific tasks for a person with a mental illness, like service animals do. Rather, they are solely there to provide emotional stability and companionship to the mental health sufferer. A licensed mental health professional should indicate that a mental health sufferer requires an emotional support animal. Emotional support animals should wear an identification vest or tag that says they’re an emotional support animal. In the U.S., people with registered emotional support animals are allowed to have their pets live with them even when no-pet policies are in place. People are also entitled to fly with their emotional support animals. However, unlike service animal owners, people with emotional support animals cannot claim access to other public or private places (such as restaurants) with their animals.

Loneliness in Autistic People #AtoZChallenge

Welcome to day twelve in the A to Z Challenge on autism. Sorry for being late to publish my post again. Today, my post deals with a common experience in autisitc people: loneliness.

Autistic people by definition have trouble forming friendships, especially with non-autistic people. For this reason, many autistic people feel isolated and lonely. I am no exception. Other than my husband, I have no close friends, though I have a ton of Facebook friends. Most I don’t really know.

in adolescence particularly, I felt lonely. I remember writing in my diary a month into starting secondary school that I realized everyone had built friendships already and I hadn’t. In elementary school, I had usually had one or two friends, though I had trouble interacting with them too. Most of my elementary school friends were themselves quite isolated too.

It is a myth that autistic people are not affected by loneliness. In fact, many adults with autism experience depression and low self-esteem because of their lack of quality friendships. However, depression and anxiety also commonly cause autistic people to feel lonely and to self-isolate. I, for one, did not attempt to socialize anymore after I realized I clung too much to peoople who didn’t in fact considier me a friend. By the end of eighth grade, I was seemingly fine with the fact that I had no friends, but was actually quite depressed.

Even autistics who do have friends, can feel lonely. This is because autistic people have a different perception of friendship than neurotypicals. For example, neurotypical people usually associate friendship with affection, companionship and intimacy. Autistic people often don’t experience these qualities, or experience them to a lesser degree, in their friendships. They may therefore be lonely because of having a poorer quality friendship. For example, I sometimes refer to some of my Facebook friends as actual friends in conversation, but I recognize that the relationship I have with them is not as close as that of other people with their friends.

There are many ways to cope with loneliness. For example, autistic people might want to connect to other autistic people. There are play groups for autistic children and social and support groups for teens and adults with autism in most urban areas. This not only will help autistic people connect to others, but they wil also be able to find someone whose experience is similar to theirs. Hence, they may feel less disconnected from their environments, which can also be a form of loneliness.

Of course, it is also important that autistic people develop their interpersonal skills. In the Netherlands, many mental health agencies provide specific programs for adults with autism, where they can also follow social skills training. This may help them build and keep friendships and thereby lessen loneliness.

Lastly, many autistic people find that pets can help them feel less lonely. I for one don’t have a particularly close connection to our two cats, but that is possibly because they’re at our apartment, where my husband primarily cares for them.

List of Things I Love #TuesdayTen

Today on Tuesday Ten and this week on the Spin Cycle, “love” is the theme. Not romantic love, as both hosts felt this was too cliche. The theme is rather simply listing things you love.

I need some positive vibes at this momemnt, because I’m frustrated. My psychologist is on maternity leave and this essentially means no therapy for four months. The psychiatric resident who is now my treatment provider, focuses on distraction. This isn’t great when I’ve been doing it for months (because I got this psychologist only a while ago and she didn’t want to start working on stuff till she’s back from leave). Then again, for now it might just help me to focus on things that make life positive. Therefore, I’m going to parttake in this challenge and list ten things I love.

1. Country music. Particularly, I like German country, such as Tom Astor and Truck Stop. I just had 14 Tage auf dem Brenner by Tom Astor on repeat on YouTube (only a few times or it’d cost me too much data), and am now listening to the rest of his music on my computer. I just happen to like the YouTube version of 14 Tage auf dem Brenner more than the one on my computer.

2. Juvenile fiction. The last book I finished is A Different Me by Deborah Blumenthal (see my review). To my surprise, Blumenthal saw my review without me having notified her, and she appreciated it. I have two more eBooks in the teen fiction category on my reading list, one of which I unfortunately still can’t load (and the Kobo contact form sucks). The other sounds like something I will probably love.

3. My lavender-scented shower gel. I bought it at a discount supermarket so there’s probably not a trace of lavender in it, but I love the smell.

4. Black liquorice. For those Dutch people who know me, I don’t need to say more. I unfortunately have never been able to convey my love for the taste to someone outside of the Netherlands. Like, when I went to Russia in 2000, I brought a bag of liquorice and other typically-Dutch candy for the family I’d be staying with, and I was the one eating it. Worse yet, I don’t even see black liquorice in supermarkets in Germany. It’s a shame! I particularly love the sweet kind. Don’t care for the salty kind that much.

5. Pepperoni pizza. Now that we’re talking food anyway, this has to be my favorite pizza. I love it even more when it’s homemade. My father used to make great pizza when my sister and I were little. Of course, we got to top our pizza slices ourselves.

6. My stuffed animals. I have a stufed whale that I’ve had since I came home from the neonatal unit, and a stuffed cat that I got for my high school graduation. I can’t find the whale right now, but the cat oversees my pillow.

7. The real life, flesh-and-blood cats. My husband has two cats at his apartment, Harry and Barry. Though they can be a bit annoying at times (and that’s a huge understatement), they are still lovely. I actually have thought about doing some cat posts here on the blog, but I don’t have any pictures of the cats and honestly wouldn’t know what to write about them.

8. My AromaStream essential oil diffuser. Probably mentioned this one in another Tuesday Ten post or something, but I truly love it. I am not too big of a believer in aromatherapy, though I believe in it a bit. Then again, even just having a nice scent in the room can be comforting.

9. Coffee. I have been drinking coffee since I was about six. For a special treat, I particularly love cinnamon coffee. Simply add a sniff of ground cinnamon to the ground coffee (one teaspoon for twelve cups of coffee) in the basket of an automatic drip coffeemaker. To make it extra special, you can serve the cinnamon coffee with a cinnamon stick and whipped cream sprinkled lightly with ground cinnamon. If you just serve the cinnamon coffee as is, the cinnamon taste isn’t overpowering.

10. All my craft supplies. I haven’t used them in a while, but still love looking through my stash. Yeah, I’m a bit of a hoarder.

The Golden Spoons