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Nellie the Rescuer Cat

I owe a lot to my furry, four-legged friend.

Nellie on her perch (my shoulder). Photo by Adrian Stuart

In another story, I wrote about how I came to adopt my cat, Nellie, and described some of the impact she had when our lives became mingled with each other. In that piece I touched very briefly on her ability to sense when I’m feeling down and comfort me.

In this piece I’m going to share how she’s provided me with love and support through some of the darkest times in my life. You might be skeptical about a cat supporting me through depression and anxiety but Nellie has been a constant source of warmth in a life that can sometimes feel so cold and uninviting.

I’m never alone with my emotions.

Nellie investigating what I’m doing. Photo by Alicia Brunskill

Nellie actively seeks out my company throughout the day. At her most affectionate, she comes for cuddles, nuzzles and a human lap if there’s one available. At other times, she likes to share the same space as me, following me from room to room, house to garden and finally settling in a comfy spot wherever I end up. I find this quiet companionship very nourishing. With looks, head bumps and insistent nudges, she reminds me that she is there, that she is curious about what I’m doing and that she likes being with me.

On the days when I lie in bed and can’t get up Nellie lies there with me. She finds a part of my body to nuzzle up against and hunkers down until I can get out of bed. Sometimes she even helps me to make that step to get out of bed. She slinks in for cuddles, nuzzles all over me and makes a chirpy chatty noise that never fails to make me smile. Nellie somehow knows when I’m almost ready to move, but need a bit of a lift before I can face getting dressed.

Nellie seeks me out if I’m crying or worked up by anxiety, she could be at the other end of the house, but she’ll come and find me. Then she fusses around my legs rubbing herself on me, nuzzling, licking me, shoving her head in my face and bumping me wherever she can with her head. She’ll climb up onto my lap if I’m sitting down, or even climb onto my back/chest if I’m lying down. Once sat on me she starts to purr, knead and chirp, I always get the impression that she’s trying to get my attention and calm me down. Whether that really is her intention or not, it does make me feel calmer, it certainly takes my focus off whatever is causing me anguish and it makes me feel loved.

She makes me feel loved when I feel unlovable.

Nellie sitting on my back, kneading. Photo by Adrian Stuart

When I’m experiencing thoughts of self-loathing that seem unstoppable and cycle 'round in my head dragging me deeper and deeper into self-hatred, a simple nudge from my furry friend can be enough to knock those thoughts out of my head for a few seconds. Replacing them are thoughts of how much I love my little companion. Perhaps it doesn’t seem long, but a few seconds can be all it takes to reduce the power out of those oppressive thoughts enough for me to start fighting back again instead of giving in to the cacophony. The inevitable cuddles that follow a Nellie-intervention help me to feel connection with another living being. Sometimes this is easier with Nellie because she doesn’t talk, she doesn’t overcomplicate things. She lets you know she’s there and that she cares and often that’s just what I need.

We rescued each other.

Nellie sitting on my chest with her face right up to mine, reminding me that there is a world outside my head where I can have snuggles. Photo by Alicia Brunskill

Perhaps some of Nellie’s empathy comes from being a rescue cat herself, since she knows what it’s like to live in a less than ideal situation. It’s unlikely that I’ll ever truly know, not unless we develop a cat language translator!

I like to think that we developed a bond from the moment she crawled into my lap at the rescue centre and asked to be taken home. Maybe she knew right then that we needed each other. I’m so glad she knew which cat I was supposed to take home, because I can’t imagine the last three and a half years without her by my side.