Like one third of America, I’m a cat lover. I’ve had kitties in my house since I was a child, often in sets. Currently, I’m the proud parent of two fur babies—Ivan (the tabby) and Baker (the Wegie)—and they’re a great source of joy, entertainment and companionship.
But cats are so much more than lap-warmers and healers. They’re a source of wisdom for me as a multiple sclerosis patient.
From my current cat duo, I’ve learned…
Practicing self-care is vital.
Ever watched a cat groom itself? Yeah, it can be an all-consuming affair. Shoulders, belly, paws, head and tail—everything gets a good washing at least once a day. And whatever time isn’t spent scrubbing is allotted for grooming their claws on a scratching post or dozing in a sunbeam or on a cozy pillow. Yes, cats sure do know how to pamper themselves. And while I can’t spend two-thirds of my life napping (boy, don’t I wish), having a couple of felines around reminds me it’s important to slow down, relax and treat yourself to something nice once in awhile.
Sometimes, it’s OK to freak out for no reason.
Baker is the king of feline freak-outs. One minute, he’s cuddled up next to me on the bed while I’m reading, getting a pet on the head with every page turn and purring himself silly. The next, he spots something in the corner that I can’t see and takes off like a shot. Other times, a noise startles him. (Seriously, one loud sneeze, and he’s gone for an hour.) But he always comes back, cool as can be and acting like nothing happened. In that moment, something was cause for fright, but it passes and life can get back to normal.
That’s what life is like with MS sometimes. Strange things happen—we tingle, go numb, lose our balance, have trouble seeing, experience a pain that wasn’t there before—and it’s time to go DEFCON 1. However, those problems aren’t always permanent, and they aren’t necessarily life-threatening. In the moment, they just feel that way. So, when they come, I give myself permission to “pull a Baker” until I can process what’s going on.
Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want.
Our cats only get wet food on Caturday and Sunday; the other five days of the week they must make do with crunchy nibbles and the occasional snack of tuna. However, that doesn’t stop Ivan from asking for it—loudly—whenever I’m home after sunrise. I leave for work early. So, basically, dark = not Caturday. If it’s daylight outside and I’m still in jammies, it’s time to sing the song of his people. I know it’s not the right day and try to tell him as much, but he refuses to listen to reason. All he knows is that he wants his food STAT. And get this … I usually end up giving it to him. Partially because he’ll shut up and let me get some work done, and partially because I like the sound of his contented smacking.
Sometimes, life’s just better when we get our “can,” isn’t it? Ivan’s insistence on what he wants reminds me that it’s okay to be a little demanding and ask for what I need. Life with MS can be challenging, but one advantage you can give yourself is to be your own best advocate. Use it sparingly for certain, but don’t be afraid to speak up for yourself when the situation warrants.
Don’t forget to let your fur down.
Cats are known for their grace and their air of indifference … until the laser pointer comes out. Then it’s on like Donkey Kong. Ivan and Baker both have run themselves ragged trying to catch the red dot more times than I can count. (Don’t worry. We always give them a treat at the end so they don’t get frustrated.) The same goes for feathers on a string, a jingly ball, and a mouse filled with crinkly paper. Get any of those guys out and it’s Mardi Gras at the Hughes house. And guess what? They’re happier for it.
We should never be too old or too serious to play around, and there are as many ways to have fun as there are people who need to have it. Go see a concert. Learn how to paint. Try live storytelling. Even if you screw up or look a little foolish doing it, who cares? You’re living. Find something that challenges you, and lets you recapture that spirit of play that made childhood such a delight. It’s good for you in so many ways, especially if you’re an MS patient.
Our lives are marked by challenges; the least we can do is compensate for it by keeping them interesting and full of verve.
Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.