Meow, ph.D

My instincts tell me that writing a blog about my cats is a pretty sad and desperate move. However, our two felines are special. Each has earned a doctorate degree in psychology. They grace our home not just as pets but also as on-call “theracats”.

Let me introduce you to the professionals in our home practice. Both are Russian Blue cats, known for their steel gray coats. Russian Blues originated in Archangel, Russia. Oddly enough, I was an exchange student to Archangel during my sophomore year of high school. I don’t remember seeing many cats. But then again, I mostly remember the machine gun toting military at Lenin’s Tomb, the Hermitage, and drinking vodka on trains (a very, very painful idea). Blues are known to be very smart and friendly. They’re also known to be particularly sensitive to human emotions. Both of ours certainly are.

Our dapper gentleman is Ollie “Oliver Clothes Off” Williams. We adopted Ollie in 2011 from the local Humane Society. We were in the market for a bright-eyed playful kitten that day in November. I got to the shelter first and perused the kittens and then, killing time, started looking at everyone else. When I got to his cage, Ollie (who had the unfortunate name Tux back then) got off the shelf in his cage where he was curled up and and came directly to the bars of his cage. He got my attention by furiously rubbing the bars and then joyfully responding to my scratching his head. When the bearded gentleman arrived we looked at the kittens but I just had to introduce him to this friendly older guy. The gray furball stole his heart too. As I waited with him in a tiny “get to know you” room, he was skittish and took a good chunk out of my arm. I wondered if we were making the right decision. When we got him home, we closed up the bedroom and sealed off any good places to hide. It was unnecessary. As soon as we opened the box, he jumped out, took a casual tour of the room and came back up to the bed to settle in for a snuggle. I spent that first day with him and he would come get some love and then go check things out. Have you figured out Ollie’s name yet? Here’s a clue:

After trying to be parents to a dog for over a year and a half, we decided that, despite our love and best efforts, we weren’t dog people. Our dog wasn’t theraputic. So, after finding her a new home, we decided that a second kitty would be a good move. We had found a shelter in our new city that we liked. On the weekends, they adopt out cats, and are supported by a thrift store next door. We had been in a few times to get a kitten fix. The volunteers knew that our preference for Russian Blues so they set us up on a playdate with a little guy named Boris.

Going in I was so excited. How often do you meet a cat named Boris? But Boris was an angry fella. He wanted nothing to do with us despite all my coxing. Finally, thinking I might be able to bridge the gap, I scruffed him and picked him up into a cuddle. I realize this could have ended painfully. But Boris didn’t mind. He actually seemed to appreciate the loving. But when the bearded gentleman reached out a hand a deep growl came out of Boris. So, he wasn’t the one. Apparently though, the volunteer working that day had a Russian Blue kitten that she was fostering. She brought Lucas the next weekend. It took one look to know he was the one. He loved scratches and even showed his belly. He was a sweet little goober from the start.

We were advised to keep him the bathroom for three days so that the cats would be able to adjust to each other. We kept him in the bedroom with the door closed. There was some sniffing and pawing but neither boy got aggressive, so we let them meet. They’re not the best of friends but not aggressive either. They play together, chasing each other up the stairs and leaping our bed in gravity defying daring feats. However, the name Lucas could not stand. Initially we called him Stan Lee. But little by little his trouble-making personality came out. It turns out, our little one is a thief.  He once stole my makeup foundation and half buried it in the litter box. We still haven’t found my mouth night guard. And he adores Mini-me’s stuffed animals. We find them all over the house. So we renamed the little ruffian, Carl “That Kills People” Lastname-Lastname-Quinn (Mini-me insisted his last name include all three of ours). Here’s the inspiration:

I think if you’re a cat person, your cat makes you happy. And I love our cats on that level. They’re fluffy and goofy and adorable. That’s all pretty normal. But Ollie and Carl do something that goes above and beyond the duties of a normal house cat. Whenever I’m feeling depressed or start crying, one of the boys will get up in my face. Ollie is a head butter. Carl is a nuzzler. But they will get my attention and demand love. They’re persistent. They won’t go away until I’ve given sufficient quantities of snuggles to distract me from my upset mood. Recently Ollie licked a tear off my cheek. I think if he could talk (this is where I go full-on cat lady) I think he was saying “Mom, I love you. I’m here for you.”

And it works. They make me feel better, even if it’s just enough to keep me from getting to the darkest parts of my mind. I’m not sure if people who don’t like animals experience this phenomenon in the same way. The last time I was hospitalized on a psychiatric unit a man with a dalmatian visited the floor every day. That dalmatian was a gentle soul. Diamond the Dalmatian would put her head in my lap and let me stroke her ears. Her owner, Jim, was as kind as his dog. He would sit with me and just chit-chat. It was a kindness. I needed someone to treat me like a normal person, not a patient. And Jim and Diamond did that for me. Even The Mayo Clinic endorses theraputic animals for people dealing with a variety of health issues from children having dental work to mental health patients.

And that’s what Ollie and Carl do too. To them, I’m just Mom. I’m the giver of scratches and snuggles, treats and catnip. They reflect the kindness and love I give them. Whether they know it or not, they remind me that I am worth love. That’s a pretty amazing gift for a animal to be able to give.

I’ve included a ridiculously large gallery of pictures of the boys. And I apologize for exposing you to my kitty-mom leanings today.

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