By Tom Demerly for tomdemerly.com
My psychiatrist told me to get a cat.
I was having nightmares. For seven years. Nightmares of plane crashes. I was not in the crashes but would see them from the ground. Not all the dreams were the same, but they were similar. Detailed. Color. Graphic. Gruesome. In one dream body parts were caught in a tree where a plane went down right over my head. In another I tried to pull a burning person from a crash. His arm came off in my hand. I would wake up and stay up, and I was afraid to go back to sleep.
So my psychiatrist told me to get a cat.
We live in a big world, and most people only see a very small part of it. I have seen much of it. When you travel over continents from peace to war you bear witness to the full spectrum of human interaction, from inspiring charity to noble heroics to horrifying cruelty. And I have seen them all.
So I got a cat.
Over time I noticed that, if I was kind and patient and loving to the cat, it would act the same toward me. I learned that cats were much more intelligent than I originally thought. They have individual characters and personalities. They also have fears and anxieties and sometimes act out.
But for the most part, when you show a cat kindness, it returns kindness.
I also learned that having animals allows us a sacred privilege on a sacrilegious earth; the privilege to create our own little world.
When you have a cat you can make your own moral code of how to live: You will never abandon the cat. You will always care for the cat. You will love the cat selflessly even if it scratches you or knocks something valuable on the floor. You will elevate the cat to a place of reverence and safety. In doing so your relationship with the cat becomes an island of kindness, love and safety in a the vast ocean of the world where things are often cruel and unfair.
But in the little world that you have built between you and your cat, there are no nightmares. Only petting and purring and playing and scratching and cat toys. And until the sad day when your cat leaves this earth it will be happy and well cared for.
And in this life, no matter what else happened, you can point to one thing and say, “I made that better.”
That’s why I got a cat.