My cat suffers from anxiety

A veterinarian told me that my cat suffers from anxiety. And I had to laugh to myself. Of course me, of all people, would get a cat who has anxiety disorder.

My Calico cat, Katniss, has wounds, or "hot spots," on her stomach from excessive licking, which my veterinarian told me is a sign of feline stress. She was given a steroid shot, which cured the hot spots for a few months. Now, within the last week, she's back to licking off the fur on her stomach. So, now, I guess, is the next step. Just like her mama, Katniss is going to have to start taking anxiety medication.

Katniss is more than just a pet to me. She's family. And, now, looking back on it, I think her anxiety is what made us "click" in the first place.

I will always remember when I met her. I wasn't planning on getting a cat. I was just tagging along with a friend who was thinking about adopting a dog. While at Adopt-a-Pet Fenton, I went to the adult cat room and sat down in the middle of the floor. Katniss was the first cat to come up to me and sit on my lap. And my jealous kitty would swat at any other cat who came near me.

It was love at first sight.

While sitting there, petting Katniss, one after another, volunteers came into the room, in awe. They told me that Katniss (named "Little Miss" at the time), who had been at the shelter longer than any of the other cats there, had never come up to a person before. She had never walked around with her tail held high, the sign of a relaxed cat. Yet she did that with me from the beginning.

Volunteers told me that, most of the time, Katniss hid in a corner by herself, not even interacting with the other cats. She came to the shelter after someone threw her out of their car and she was lost in the woods behind the shelter for a week. And, of course, an experience like that changed her.

I knew right then that I had to adopt Katniss.

And yes, she has a funny personality. When it's just the two of us, she's the friendliest cat in the world. She sits on my lap, rubs her face against mine, cuddles up to me at night and is always playing or jumping around the apartment. Yet as soon as someone else comes over -- even buzzes up to my apartment or knocks on the door -- she immediately hides under the bed for hours, until the person leaves.

My cat has social anxiety. She had nervous ticks. When she's in uncomfortable situations, her body shakes and she meows in a high pitch whine. She's just like a human suffering from anxiety disorder.

And I never knew before that this was possible. I didn't know that animals could suffer from mental disorders! But it makes sense. There are many diseases that both cats and humans can suffer from -- leukemia, cancer, diabetes, immunodeficiency and upper respiratory infections, to name a few. So why not mental illnesses. They are DISEASES too.

For instance, a pet can suffer from depression, just like its owner, after a major change in its life or a distressing event. According to Pet Care RX, symptoms of depression in dogs are becoming withdrawn, low activity levels, loss of interest in the things they once enjoyed, and a change in their eating and/or sleeping habits. And, as my cat Katniss proves, pets can also suffer from anxiety.

There are people in this world who still don't believe that mental illnesses are actually illnesses. They think you can just "get over it" or "it's in your head" or "you're just seeking attention." But, to me, the fact that animals can suffer from mental illness too proves, even more, that it's a disease. Dogs are innately happy and cats are usually carefree. Do you think our pets actually choose to be depressed? Do you think they're thinking, "If I just lay here and sleep all day" or "If I lick myself raw then my owner will pay attention to me?" Or do you think they just don't have the willpower to just "get over it?" No, I didn't think so. Because, just like anyone else who has depression, it's not a choice. It's a chemical imbalance in the brain that can affect any living creature.

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