If you ask anyone who knew me at the time, nearly all of them would tell you that the latter half of September 2013 was when I lost my mind. That was when I went to a local animal shelter in search of a new canine companion for the family and wound up adopting one of the feline variety instead. It was a decision that I think surprised my friends and especially my family. We had always considered ourselves “dog people,” but we hadn’t had a pet of any kind since I was in junior high. But it’s also when I surprised myself and became one of those people; the type that not only gushed about and shared photos of their cat all over social media as much as humanly possible, but also the type that supported and advocated for his rights and welfare as well as the rights and welfare of all animals. What in the world? Who had I become? How did this happen?
Truth be told, I did find a dog that I fell in love with and desperately wanted to bring home to the family that same day, but the shelter wanted an inordinate amount of money for him that I couldn’t justify spending at the time. Before leaving though, we decided to take a tour of the “cat room,” just to see what they had. There was always the possibility that there was going to be some gorgeous pure-bred or adorable newborn kittens that we just couldn’t resist, after all! Instead, the first cat to really get our attention was a chunky-looking gray tabby named Tigger who reached through his cage as we walked by and grabbed onto my sleeve (something he still does to this day to grab hold of someone passing by him without giving him his proper due!). It was practically as if Tigger was the one choosing us. We asked the shelter if we could open his cage and hold him for a while, to which they agreed. And that was when we fell in love.
I knew that I couldn’t just leave him there.
Over the months and years that have passed, Tigger has grown into a full-fledged member of our family and one of the most-beloved parts of my entire identity. We’ve learned how to get along with taking care of a kitty (litter boxes are so gross, no matter how you do it, and veterinary fees aren’t cheap!) and he’s learned quite a bit about how to get along with a brand new family of humans too (like when and where it’s okay to scratch and bite and when it is decidedly not okay!). His face crowding out my own in the shot has become a very likely permanent default photo on all of my social media accounts, I’ve blogged and written about him for different websites all over the web, I ran a contest on a now-defunct website that I operated in the past to raise money for animal wildlife and conservation efforts on his behalf, I’ve had a t-shirt printed with his likeness to support a local animal shelter, and really, if he had the ability, you would probably think that my Instagram account had basically been taken over by him. But none of that really explains why I’ve grown so fond of him and what exactly makes him so great…other than the fact that you really just can’t help but fall in love by looking at him!
Though the title of this post may be a little overdramatic, studies have actually shown that owning a pet can greatly reduce your stress level as well as provide a number of other health benefits such as reducing your risk of heart disease, asthma, depression and more. Prior to bringing Tigger home from the shelter, I was an emotional trainwreck. Admittedly, I’m still kinda crazy about some topics to this day, but before Tigger, I used to sit alone in my bedroom in tears thinking that I was truly going insane. Now when I come home from a stressful day at work and pick Tigger up and hug him close and I can hear and feel him purring with happiness, all of that stress slowly starts fading away. And just the other night, when the other people in my home made me angry over something petty, and I closed myself up in my room and started feeling those old patterns start coming back to me, my heart couldn’t help but melt a little when I started hearing faint scratches and desperate meows pleading to be let inside with me. And every morning, when I first wake up, there he is at the corner of my bed where he has spent the night as well, just to make sure he was close to me all through the night. I mean, all things considered, is there really any doubt that the love of a pet can change your entire life? I can definitely say that I understand those bumper stickers that I see everywhere now!
While it may be true that our lives would go on if we didn’t have our pets in them, I certainly know that my world would be a lot less joyful without my best friend in it… And I think a great many of you out there would feel the same.