Bean, my cat has anxiety. She is scared of her own shadow. If she were my human child she would be in therapy for this anxiety, but all in all, Bean deals with it very well. You see when she was a baby, Bean suffered from a traumatic event that involved a hawk taking her from her mother, and somehow she was able to escape, only to be found curled up in the road by a friendly dog out with his humans. How do we know Bean was carried away by a hawk, I hear you cry. Well because the vet told us. Yet do not worry, Bean is a healthy happy little cat who has her difficulties. I mean don’t we all?
So this is a story about how one single event caused a change in Bean’s mental health. Let me introduce you to the characters in this story. Bean, our anxious little cat, has already been introduced. Marmite, our gray cat, is also a stray and has been named “Mayor of the Street” by our neighbors. Truly that boy enjoys walking up and down as if he is making sure everything is in order. His best friend is a black labrador called Bear who lives across the road.
Frank, my son's cat, is also my little cute and adorable grandchild. Frank is another stray who lives with my son and his three roommates at university.
So this story begins with my son getting an internship in Salt Lake City and Frank coming to stay at my house. Now Bean and Marmite have always been indoor/outdoor cats together while enjoying the enclosed space outside. Each cat has their territory, with Bean being in my bedroom, Marmite getting the run of the rest of the house, and Frank staying in my son’s bedroom. All summer long for 12 weeks I rotated the cats so that they got to experience being with us, being in the house, or being on the patio. Marmite and Frank got on great. Marmite and Bean are brother and sister so they tolerate each other, but Bean did not care for Frank and would tell us by hissing at him whenever she happened to see him.
Now what happened next occurred over 12 weeks. I slowly started to observe Bean’s world getting smaller and smaller. First of all, Bean refused to eat her food outside the kitchen and insisted that she eat her food in my room. Next Bean stopped going outside and then slowly stopped exploring the patio. In the end, Bean stayed in my bedroom and even with the door open would refuse to venture out.
So what had happened? Bean had become so anxious about Frank being in the house that she developed agoraphobia (a fear of open spaces) over 12 weeks and slowly her world started to shrink. Bean started avoiding any space that she thought Frank would be in. Therefore, reducing her world to the bedroom.
The point of this story is that any event can happen to us that causes our mental health to deteriorate. This can slowly happen over time without us even realizing it until we are unable to function with our activities of daily living, such as hygiene, work, relationships, or our home life. It is therefore imperative to engage in healthy self-care, exercise, sleep seven to eight hours per night, eat healthily and address any present or past issues in therapy to help you maintain good mental health.
The good news is that Bean recently started going out on the patio and even ventured outside twice this week. She is back to her old princess mischievous self and has started enjoying all that life has to offer again.