Sunday, February 13, 2011


My boyfriend used to work a job that was mainly evenings/nights which meant Toby had his company during the day when I was at work, and at night when I was home. Toby has always been a friendly cat but not a lap cat by any means. When we say that he's "cuddling" we mean that he's on the same piece of furniture as us, possibly touching us with a paw. More often than not, he'll sit a little distance away, keeping an eye on us. The other week he was spending a lot of time actually sitting against my legs purring and being within easy petting distance which I attributed to Toby knowing I needed extra comfort due to my anxiety.

This weekend Toby has been almost constantly near one of us. Sitting on our feet while we watched Monty Python and Cats 101. Curling up against my leg while I napped. Following my boyfriend to the couch and leaning against him while he was working. He did get up and move around during Bad Dog and he did insist on playing fetch for an hour, but otherwise Toby has been incredibly cuddly compared to his normal.

I'm not sure if it's because boyfriend changed jobs and is now on a schedule similar to mine so Toby hasn't had as much attention during the day as he was used to or if it's because I'm sick. Yes, the massive amounts of television watching and napping are because I'm fighting off yet another stupid nasty cold. My dad asked if Toby was avoiding me to stay healthy and I told him Toby was actually being really affectionate. Pretty sure from what I know of kitty URIs that the virus I've got likely won't infect him. I know that cats can get some versions of the flu bug though so happy I don't have that!

What do you think? Is Toby being more affectionate and cuddly because he's been lonely during the work week? Is it because he knows I'm cranky and sick? Or some combination of the two?

My first thought was that the apartment might be cold (he cuddles much more when it's cold in here!) but my boyfriend swears the temperature is normal, even to someone who isn't sick.

The cause is a mystery but I do appreciate the result of the sweet cuddly cat!

He's not 100% cuddly though, he did almost attack the tv during Bad Dog. Boyfriend suggested Toby wants to be famous.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

ADHD, Anxiety, and Animals, Oh My!

You already know I have ADHD. Like most adult women with ADHD, the Hyperactive part of my ADHD expresses itself partially as anxiety. Unrelated to the ADHD I also have a condition called hyperekplexia (stiff baby syndrome for you medical folks) that results in me making little noises I call eeps that sound like a baby panda hiccuping. Technically I eep when I'm startled, but it works out to a correlation between rate and volume of eeps and my anxiety levels. However, because I have that whole ADHD-related anxiety thing, anxiety levels don't always relate to real world events for me. As I told my best friend the other day, I can rationally tell myself "Beth, that's a silly response. Everything is fine. There's no way Toby will figure out how to move the lock and escape into the hall, make it into the elevator, and run into the street in front of a car while you're at work" and yet the anxious part of my brain, fueled by ADHD hyperactivity turned inwards doesn't give two pennies for rational thought and just says "that's nice, but still, he's a smart kitty, he could!" and ignores reality.

What does any of this have to do with animals as this is a blog ostensibly about animals? Because animals are amazing for my anxiety and the mental illnesses of many people around the world. There are local and international organizations that organize visits from dogs, cats, and other pets to people who can benefit from the experience. Research has shown that petting cats helps lower people's blood pressure, which can relieve feelings of stress.

For me there's definitely the physiological benefit of petting Toby being calming and soothing. A lot of it for me is that even if the things I'm worrying about happen (aside from any involving Toby hurting himself), Toby will still love me. Even when the crazy part of my brain can't listen to the rational side that says my fears are baseless, it can still recognize that Toby's love is in no way dependent on those things being untrue. Even if I wake up 40lbs heavier and get fired all in one day, Toby will still love me. I can believe in him, even when I can't believe in logic.

Last night when I was feeling particularly anxious (it's been a bit high the past week) he came over and curled against my leg while I watched Monty Python. The night before when I woke up from a nightmare, he climbed onto the bed and curled up next to me. He's not always the most cuddly cat, but he knows when I need extra affection and he makes it clear that he loves me. Toby, like all pets, has a lot to teach us about unconditional love. This evening he licked my hand when I went to pet him.

Even though I might bribe him into cuddles this evening with treats while I read, I'll still know he loves me. Even if he'd rather stay on the comfy nest of clothes he's created for himself.

I did warn that Clean All the Things (named for Allie Bosch's amazing Hyperbole and a Half strip) didn't quite work this weekend...

Note: My inclusion of the personal here was partially because we often think of mental illness without thinking of the people they affect and so hold stereotypes that anxious people are irrational cowards (I am quite logical and have had people consider me brave) or that ADHD people are irresponsible (Many people have found me to be quite responsible). More importantly for me, "coming out" like this on the internet where it might be seen by someone feeling alone with her mental illness is my tribute to a beloved friend who passed away two weeks ago. He was incredibly open and honest about having been on medication for depression since he was in high school and advocated for acceptance while breaking stereotypes about those with mental illnesses. His openness helped me a great deal in coming to terms with my own mental state and if my openness can help one person the way he helped so many, it will be a fitting tribute. He also loved animals and Monty Python.