The three reasons why adopting a kitten may help you get over a traumatic experience, such as rape, causing suicidal thoughts and behavior are:
- Responsibility. If you are responsible for another sentient being you become useful. And if you are useful, you are not a burden on society or others. And therefore, taking on the responsibility is a counter to the belief that you have become a burden to others; a sense of uselessness.
- Unconditional love. Companion cats and dogs provide their human caregiver with unconditional love and a consistent and reliable presence. This counteracts a feeling of social isolation and inability to connect with others.
- Pet care and self-care. There is a nice link between caring for your companion animal and caring for yourself. Looking after a cat or dog provides a reason for the person to look after themselves. This third item is an overlap with the first.
An academic and psychologist June McNicholas has used the phrase “pet care and self-care are linked”. She says that when a cat owner leaves the house to buy food for their companion animal, they are likely to buy food for themselves as well. And when they feed their companion animal, they will feed themselves at the same time.
And the responsibility item above equates to the fact that companion animals give traumatised and deeply depressed people a reason to live.
Lucy Osborne-Crowley has written an excellent article for abc.net.au. I was looking for an Australian cat story and bumped into this article. It’s a great one and I would recommend all people read it. It is particularly pertinent to me because I have a very close friend who I regard as a daughter, although she is not my daughter. But I look after her as a daughter and she is an alcoholic and in despair to often. Therefore Osborne-Crowley’s article touches a nerve for me.
Osborne-Crowley was raped (“a devastating rape”) and became suicidal. She numbed her feelings with vodka. She did it consistently and purposefully to the point where she risked accidentally killing herself. It was almost an act of suicide by gradual process during which she could have died. She had no intention of killing herself but that might have been the outcome. It was a self-medicating process in the belief that if she could do it long enough, she would gradually come out of her feelings of despair but it didn’t happen because time does not heal all wounds, she said.
You have to confront your feelings and feel them “until the feelings run out”. I love that phrase. It’s a beautiful way to say it. She said that a best friend told her that “the only way out is through”. That’s another great statement and idea.
And Osborne-Crowley adopted a kitten to find her way through and out. I’m not sure why that idea came to her but thankfully it did. Perhaps a friend recommended it, the same friend who advised her to go through the problem rather than circumventing it all plotting it out through vodka.
And she says that she began to “feel things that were stronger than my urge to die”. These feelings were her love for her cat. Her cat needed her and she had to be there for him. She had to take responsibility for him and she knew that immediately.
She mentions a novel that I have not read but I’ve heard about called Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. The protagonist, Eleanor, adopted a cat immediately after her serious suicide attempt. It’s just come to me (slow!). Osborne-Crowley may have got the idea to adopt a kitten from this novel. Eleanor called her cat Glen which was the brand of vodka she was drinking to excess at the time. Osborne-Crowley followed suit.
And Osborne-Crowley mentions a study published last year by the University of South Australia which reminded her that she is not the only person believing that taking responsibility for a cat helps to keep you alive. The study headed by Dr. Jannette Young concluded that Australians over 60 who might be suicidal can put off these thoughts by adopting a cat which gave them a reason to live. Looking after a companion animal removed their sense of uselessness.
Suicide grows out of a sense of uselessness and a disconnect from others. Try adopting a kitten. Love them genuinely. I would suggest that this method won’t work for everyone but is saved Osborne-Crowley. And thank God it did because she is a damned useful person.
SOME MORE ON BENEFITS TO CAT OWNERS AND OTHERS: