I recently started a television show on our local public cable station (Comcast Channel 21 and 916, Charter Channel 187 Tuesdays at 11Am, Wednesdays at 6:30PM). I felt it was appropriate to start with the important role our pets – especially cats – have in our lives. As I was gathering information to prepare the first episode, I came across so many beautiful stories and images of the roles animals have in our lives. One of the most touching was a new commercial from a car manufacturer that I hadn’t seen. It shows the relationship between a young woman and her dog. The commercial started in the present with the young woman kissing her old dog and proceeded back in time through life’s major events and her dog Maddie’s presence at each event. It ended with her picking out a puppy and naming her Maddie and then another flash of her kissing her aging dog. We’re left to wonder if it was time to say goodbye. But one thing we don’t wonder about is the deep, deep love of this human and pet. For those of us who are lucky enough to share our lives with a pet we know how special that bond is.
The American Veterinary Medical Association defines the human-animal bond as a mutually beneficial and dynamic relationship between people and animals that is influenced by behaviors considered essential to the health and well-being of both. The bond includes, but is not limited emotional, psychological, and physical interactions of people, animals, and the environment.
My role as a veterinarian is to maximize the potential of this relationship between people and animals and specifically to promote the health and well-being of both.
I’d like to share a couple of stories that illustrate the importance of the role our cats have in our lives. The first is from a client of mine named Wava and her cat Harley. I saw Harley for an emergency exam because he couldn’t pass urine. When I told Wava the severity of Harley’s situation, she said “do whatever you need to. He was there for me throughout my cancer and I have to help him through this.” Wow! Those words just struck my heart. Fortunately, Harley recovered and is doing wonderfully now. I spoke with Wava about her experience with cancer and she agreed to share her story for this show. She explained how her cat’s – including Harley, would sit by her as she suffered the ill effects of chemotherapy and comforted her as she rested and recovered. Studies have repeatedly demonstrated the positive effects of animals on ill people. From quicker healing, reduced stress and awareness of pain, increased survival time there can be no doubt of the benefits of pets.
Another client also recently shared her story. The client had divorced and her young daughter was distressed by this major event. Her daughter would not visit with the therapist despite her mother’s urging. But, the mother would often hear her daughter talking to the cat about her fears and frustrations. When the mother spoke with her therapist, she was told this was a great way for her daughter to work through her emotions.
Whether it’s just the warm feeling in your heart when your cat greets you at the door or cuddles with you while watching TV, or maybe when it listens to your frustrations or sadness after a rough day, our cats clearly enrich our lives. We are better people for knowing them, loving them and being loved by them.