What my cat’s anxiety taught me about how I should treat my own

COMMENT: My almost 2-year-old cat was diagnosed with anxiety recently. We have that in common. I have suffered for most of my life, and while I largely have it under control, our recent attempts to treat my cats symptoms taught me a few lessons about how I should treat my own.

We have not fully figured out Jack’s triggers yet, although I imagine a bit of separation anxiety with the big shift of people moving from home to the office this year played a role. He has always been an affectionate and talkative little man. Now, after diagnosis, we are paying far more attention to what he is trying to say.

And I am realising I should be paying attention for myself, too.

My cat's own anxiety journey has taught me how I should approach my own.


My cat’s own anxiety journey has taught me how I should approach my own.

Diet is key

As soon as Jack’s anxiety was the root cause of his issues, we focused on the easiest, and possibly most important, aspect of his day – his diet. Our cat is now on a scientific stress diet, fed routinely morning and night. His biscuits are placed in a water bath to ensure he gets all the hydration he needs. Is it cheap? Absolutely not. But we also know how important a good diet is for Jack’s state of mind.

When it comes to myself, I know the same thing. But it is all too easy to skip, to survive off three morning coffees over a deadline, or to snack at the desk all day because putting together a proper meal is too much effort when life gets in the way.

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And then I wonder why I start to fade in the middle of the afternoon. I did not eat until lunchtime today, and I am sipping yet another coffee as I write this.

Perhaps it is time to start treating myself like I treat my cat.

Always have a safe space to hide from the world

If our cat were a person, he would likely be the life of the party. He is loud, incredibly affectionate and adores attention. But when he gets overwhelmed he knows he has a quiet hidden bed in a cubbyhole in the closet that he can retreat to for time out. It is his space, and his space only. He takes time to chill, then returns full of energy and chaos.

Jack does not feel guilty bailing on the party to take time out when he knows he needs it, so why do our human counterparts feel so bad disappearing on our loved-ones for much-needed time out?

Jack knows taking time out from the world is vital to his mental wellbeing.


Jack knows taking time out from the world is vital to his mental wellbeing.

Remember when blanket forts were truly magical as kids? Maybe it is time to bring back the blanket fort and normalise hiding out from the world for much-needed time out.

Sometimes you just need a good cuddle from someone you love

Jack thrives on attention and cuddles. He wakes us up around 5am every morning demanding hugs. He has zero qualms about interrupting whatever we may be doing, because whatever we are doing is never as important as a good snuggle.

When life gets busy and stress takes hold, it can be easy to forget the importance of taking time to hug the people you love. And sometimes, at the end of a hard day, a good hug makes all the difference.

Just ask Jack.

Follow the sun

My cat intuitively knows the secret to good health is a bit of sunshine. He will find the warmest, sunniest spot in the house and spend his afternoons dozing there (catching up on that sleep is vital, too).

Often I get too caught up in work and life that I forget to take a few minutes to spend time in the sun. Yet every time I do, I remember how much that burst of vitamin D helps the mental state.

My cat Jack recently got diagnosed with anxiety.  Treating him has taught me valuable lessons about treating my own.


My cat Jack recently got diagnosed with anxiety. Treating him has taught me valuable lessons about treating my own.

Invest in good health

Jack is currently having weekly visits to the vet for an injection to help his health issues. We have invested heavily in the perfect cat food, and we are refilling his Feliway diffuser to keep him calm. Because we love him, and want him to be happy.

For some reason, when it comes to investing in our own health, something else always takes priority. I have become a pro at the art of “suck it up” all too often when it comes to not feeling 100%.

Jack is terrified of the vet, but if our roles were reversed, I’m pretty regular checkups and ensuring my physical health was exactly as it should be high on his priority list.

Make time for the fun stuff

For a cat that is not much older than a kitten, play time is the best time of the day. He has a favorite toy from when he was a kitten. It was once a stuffed red fish on a stick. It is now a piece of red fabric on half a stick, it has been destroyed and eaten so often. But, when Jack really needs to play with something comforting, he drags it loudly up the stairs in the middle of the night demanding a little one-on-one.

Whether intuitively or simply because he loves it, Jack knows that some good exercise and play helps.

It is a good reminder to get out and move, in a way that truly brings us joy. Especially when the day-to-day gets on top of us.

When in doubt, stalk the dog and jump on her head

This one is just for Jack. But if you ask him, he will insist it helps.

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