It is widely acknowledged that pets are wonderful for your mental health! But… — Regina Cat Rescue
How on earth did I end up thinking this way, you might ask? The answer is simple, yet complicated… for the first time in my life, I found myself dealing with the challenges of extreme anxiety, which eventually brought on depression as well. I was waking with extreme worry every single day, a lack of motivation to do many of the things that came second nature to me, and a feeling that I was letting everyone important to me down and that things were never going to improve. And suddenly, my fur babies who brought me so much companionship and joy, had turned into one more responsibility I felt I was failing at and one more reminder of how different this new/unwell Laura was.
All of this led to recurring thoughts that my cats deserved better, that I was letting them down by not being myself, not having the energy to play with them like I normally would, and even that my sadness and depression was wearing off on them and making them feel the same way. And because I loved them so much, I felt that doing what was best for them would be to let them go to another home. One where their human(s) could re-instil happiness and excitement in their lives.
As a co-chair of Regina Cat Rescue, I have learned that there have been many adoption “returns” and/or rehoming attempts due to the onset of mental health issues this year. And as someone who has been there myself… I’m writing this blog to tell you that you are not alone. You are not a bad person or a bad pet owner for the thoughts you’ve had. But again, as someone who has been there…I urge you to reconsider, for the following reasons:
Cats are very resistant to change. The upheaval of being returned to a rescue, ending up in a shelter and/or a new home with so many differences from the one they have been used to can be severely upsetting to your cat. Far more upsetting and difficult than what you think you are putting them through as you navigate your mental health challenges with them by your side.
No matter how bad things get, I’m sure you are meeting their basic needs. There are so many cats whose basic needs are not met. Those who don’t know where their next meal is coming from, don’t have a safe, warm place to live, etc. While you may not be able to provide the same level of excitement and play that you used to, what you are offering them is so much more than many of the cats that end up in shelters and rescue organizations. And you also can’t guarantee that a rehoming situation would offer anything more than you do… even when you’re not at your best. In fact, I’m sure that if our cats could talk, they would insist that they want to stay living with you, despite how you have been feeling and acting lately.
While it might not feel that way when you’re in the thick of it, mental health can be treated and eventually improve. It is therefore a temporary problem, whereas giving up your beloved pet is permanent. I can’t imagine the remorse I would feel when I start to improve and realized I gave up someone so important to me and now they are a part of another family and I cannot get them back.
I’m sure there are many other reasons that could be added to this, but these are the ones that have helped me to rethink things when I find my mind going back to “that place”. The bottom line is – our pets love us just as much as we love them. Their expectations are something that we assign to them and not necessarily how they feel. We can also ask for help. An alternative to surrendering your cat may be to tell others in your life that you are struggling and that you could use help caring for your pet at the moment. Perhaps you could arrange for others to come visit and share in the playtime, feeding time, etc. while you are in this space. I’m sure there are other alternatives to consider. A new catnip toy can bring so much joy to your “seemingly deprived” kitty for example. 😉
I hope this post has helped you to realize there are alternatives and strong reasons not to follow through on what you may see as a solution – to give up or return your fur baby.
Written with much love and transparency to my fellow cat lovers,