By Janet McAfee

Easy to live with, mystical and engaging felines provide people with countless amusement and companionship.  Now we are also discovering they play an important role in keeping us healthy, adding years to our lifespan, and comforting us during times of grief.

My friend, Christine Gross, experienced tragedy when her husband John died suddenly in 2014.  A friend suggested she adopt a cat to help her during the grieving process.  Chris had dogs in the past, but never before owned a cat.  In her charming English accent, she explains, “I didn’t even like cats!  I thought all they ever did was eat and poop (she used another word!).  When someone suggested getting a cat, I almost recoiled, but she kept talking and I kept listening.”  Chris visited the Seal Beach Animal Care Center, a private no-kill organization near her home.  There she met a beautiful 6-yr-old Snowshoe cat, and Chris was mesmerized by her crystal blue eyes and enchanting personality.     

Chris describes how her background never exposed her to cats.  “Growing up in England, my mother never liked cats, and she told us stories of her cat that went missing and it snarled and hissed upon return.  After John died, I had a house full of friends and family for the first month.  But I was dreading the first night when I would be on my own with the stillness and quiet in the house.”

“Verity saved me from the silence of the now empty home that was once filled with chit chat, laughter, the occasional argument, and the movement of people going about their daily routine.  I saved her from the shelter, but in reality she was the one who saved me.  Verity is the perfect pet since I travel a lot, she can easily stay with a friend.  John told me that if he went first, he wanted me to travel and enjoy life.  John was also a cat lover, and he owned several before we got married.”

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“That first night, Verity made herself at home, and slept next to me, seeming to know I needed the comfort.  She does such funny things that I thought were unique, like pushing little things around the floor and then running up on a perch to look down on them.  She’ll sit on my lap, but then turn her back on me when she’s mad.  She runs like mad around the living room, making me laugh at her antics.  One day she was missing, and when I opened a kitchen drawer she was inside staring up at me.  How did she ever get in there?  When I see my neighbor outside in the winter rain and summer heat walking his dog, and know I made the right choice.”

“Verity is a Godsend.  When I was sick with the flu, and she laid on the bed by me the entire time.  Once I recovered, she returned to her favorite spot up in the closet where she keeps an eye on me.  Soon she’ll join me at my desk and walk around the computer, sticking out her paw trying to type a word and make me laugh.  I look forward to returning home, knowing she’s there to greet me.  When I talk to Verity, there is no silence.  I absolutely love her.”

Science discovered another reason why cats keep us healthy and happy.  Cats create purr vibrations with a range of 20 to 40 Hz, which is medically therapeutic for many illnesses.  Their purring lowers stress, reduces the chance of heart attacks, strengthens bones, and reduces the symptoms of dyspnea.  Their loving companionship provides respite from loneliness and depression.  If you are a family with young children, a furry family member brings them a lower risk of allergies, asthma, eczema, and strengthens their immune system.  One insurance company gives bonus points to applicants with pets, knowing they increase life span.

Run don’t walk to the nearest shelter, and adopt a homeless cat who will pay you back love and comfort.  View the adoptable animals at the Seal Beach shelter at www.sbacc.org, (562) 430-4993.  Meet adoptable felines at our local county shelter, the Coachella Valley Animal Campus, www.rcdas.org, (760) 343-3644.  As Verity taught Christine Gross, anyone can become a “cat lover,” a club with open membership and many rewards.

Janetmcafee8@verizon.net