The Power Of Cat Love

“Never underestimate the power of the love between people and their pets.”

This was said by police spokesperson, officer Albie Esparza, following some unusual teamwork between man and beast on October 7, 2015. A suspected car thief in San Francisco turned suicidal after being caught, and ran into a building where he threatened to jump out a third-floor window. Police negotiators spent 3 hours trying to talk the man down but were unsuccessful until they realized his family, who were called to the scene, brought his pet cat. They used his cat as part of the intervention, and within 45 minutes the man surrendered without incident.

The power of our pets, indeed.

To be needed

Unfortunately I can’t find the citation, but many years ago I was watching a documentary on disabled people and their guide dogs. One woman said that she felt she was such a burden on everyone, but that her dog changed her life in more ways than just being able to get around. What she said will always stay with me because I feel it’s the reason for the incredible bond we have with our pets: “He makes me feel like he needs me just as much as I need him.” To feel needed, like she had a purpose in the world, a reason to wake up the next morning and get out of bed; such is the power of love from our pets who depend on us for their survival.

What’s interesting is that in searching for the documentary, a similar story popped up where the subject said the same thing.

soldier and his combat dog both returned from Iraq suffering from PTSD. As a result, the dog developed severe behaviour disorders, so the soldier adopted him and trained him to be his service dog to assist in his own challenges dealing with the disorder which gave both of them purpose and rehabilitation. “He needs me just as much as I need him,” the soldier reasoned.

Pets & Rehab

The power of our pets, and cat love in particular, is also being used to rehabilitate prisoners. At the Pendleton Correctional Facility in Indiana, shelter cats are cared for by carefully-screened inmates who feel a newfound sense of purpose and responsibility. One offender’s particularly compelling reasoning was that, “[l]ove will change characteristics from anybody’s tortured past. That goes for animals and humans, really.” And more powerful than the feeling of love, the present expression of it, is the belief in one’s capacity to love, which, for a multitude of terrible reasons and circumstances, people forget and are reminded of when staring into the wide eyes of an innocent animal who needs it.

Perhaps that’s what happened to the suicidal San Franciscan when he saw his kitty. Perhaps that’s the power of cats to help those who suffer from depression, and any of us who get sad from time to time: we look into those big eyes and think, I can love, so I will live.

If you have a story you’d like to share about the impact your cat has had on your life, please post below.

13 thoughts on “The Power Of Cat Love

  1. “I can love, so I can live” is very true. Also, something like “I can and I must care for this pet, so I must live”. I had severe depression about 19 months ago, would not get out of bed or eat for days. Then a friend of mine found my black cat Selene meowing on the street. Brought her to my house. She would lay with me in bed for hours and hours. Would only get up if I did. After a couple of days I was already deeply attached and touched by her sensitivity. After that, I was never alone in my home again. She became family. After all these months, she still lays with me for hours, only moves when I move, follows me everywhere. It is really crazy but that’s how I know she loves and cares for me. I love her and care for her in return.

    1. My kitties are an official part of my depression treatment plan. I just love them so. I think everyone with depression needs a pet.

  2. Great article! A cat living in the woods behind our house basically took us over. He was battered and hungry, and close to developing blood poisoning from abcesses. He decided we were the ones he wanted to adopt, and has been in charge ever since. 5 years later, he made it possible for us to get through several years of loss, family conflict, and sorrow that threatened to sink us. We owe him everything, but we saved him too.

  3. I have a ginger tom he’s only a year old but I’ve suffered from severe depression since my sister died 2 and a half years ago but since getting him my days in bed wanting to shut the world out have dramatically reduced now we snuggle while he gets his tummy rubbed ? He also knows when I’m not feeling well he will come over and rub his wee face off my cheek and lower his wee head for me to kiss him then he will snuggle on my chest or at my side when my 5 year old son is ill and asleep my kitty checks on him just to make sure he’s ok where he will look at him tap his wee nose off either his head or cheek a few times giving him kisses then he will curl up behind him and look as though he’s fell asleep too but every move or noise my son makes he’s back up checks him kisses him then curls up behind him and he does it all night… son sleeps in my bed xx

  4. I’m divorced, having got rid of my husband & kept the cats! My husband always grumbled about the cost so now I spend as much as I’ve got on them & I don’t count the cost. As I have 5 of them it is quite a lot but I don’t care. I’ve always said the same as you did Rob & that it gives me the motivation to get up in the morning. They really do help with depression. They really are my family, my fur children, & I just love having them around. Even when they annoy the hell out of me I still love having them around. Even when they’re sick on my new rug & I tread in it, I still love having them around. I’m a bit of a loner anyway so I’m good on my own, but without them I know I would feel lonely & sad but you can’t be sad for long with 5 affectionate cats. And I don’t for one minute think they love me just because I feed them. They love me unconditionally & the same is true for me. They all have a story. I found one of them as a kitten in the middle of the road & it’s as though he’s never forgotten it as he looks at me with absolute devotion on his face. 2 others came from other people. One of them was totally neurotic & afraid as she came from a house in which there was a violent man who didn’t like cats. If I cornered her to open the back door she would go into complete panic & start scrabbling backwards to get away from me. It’s taken years of desensitising her, to show her that nothing bad is going to happen to her in that corner. It’s only recently that I’ve been able to stroke her outside & that’s only because it’s on a high wall. She’s still a bit neurotic but she’s turned into a lovely, affectionate cat who loves to lie on the couch with me. The other two are two brothers & not very old so there’s been a bit of a steep learning curve for all of them since they joined us. But I could never envisage without them <3

  5. When I get panic attacs,cats gets me down. They are so relaxed and give tat back to me. Noch human can help me this way.
    Sorry for my english, I am from germany ?

  6. A minor correction.
    I believe the Pendleton Correctional Facility is located in Indiana.

    Also, there is a Prison Foster Program in Washington state run by Purrfect Pals Cat Shelter that does similar things. Here is the website describing the program:

    I love the article and do appreciate the contribution that cats make in the lives of humans.There is something magical about a purring cat.

  7. i have major depressive disorder and ptsd… have had many bouts of severe depression throughout my life and have been saved by the love of a kitty cat more than once… when i started having panic attacks in 2009, it was my cats that helped me the most… just listening to my babies purr makes me feel loved…

  8. I forgot to mention the 5th cat & I feel so guilty about it I have to tell you about her too! (Cat people will understand my need to do this lol) The 5th one is Mia a little female I felt was lonely & needed a friend to play with so I got the two boys as kittens this reason & it worked. She loved the boys right from the start but they’ve taught her bad behaviour as now she’s turned from a cowardly lion (all bluff with no action) into a Rottweiler! She’s chased cats out of the garden, she even throws herself at my alpha male Rafe. (He hates the boys & if they go anywhere too close to him he growls & hisses, & for God’s sake don’t touch his tail! I feel I’ve runined his life for him which makes me feel really sad & bad for having taken them on :'( ). Mia never leaves the garden as she’s afraid of the traffic on the estate which is good as I’ve already lost one cat on that road 🙁 She’s also a terrible hunter which I’m also glad about. Her idea of hunting is to pick up a toilet roll in her teeth & drag it downstairs yowling all the way as though she’s just brought down a gazelle! She drops it in the hall & continues to yowl looking for a response to her courage & if I don’t answer her meow gets more & more questioning & plaintive which really makes me laugh. It’s not always a toilet roll sometimes it’s my tissues, the conditioner, a soft toy. Sometimes she does it all night & dumps them all in the hall so that I have an assortment of items to return to their rightful place when I go back upstairs. There my conscience is clear now ,,,=^-.-^=,,, 🙂

  9. mr. turtle taco my sokoki kitty came into my life in aug 2014. my hubby n i walked 2 doors down from my house to a taco stand named mr.taco. as we were waiting for out food, i saw a young couple leave a kitty n drive off. this kitty came running off to me. i brought him home.he mated with my roommates kitty a ragdoll siamese named cookie. when their kittens came about , my little cuddlebug twinkletoes gives me hugs n kisses everyday. i suffer from depression n other mood disorders. my little guy makes me smile everyday. he always sleeps near me, chirps at me n enjoys just being near me. i love my whole little kitty family. i look forward everyday to see what shanangins the kittys try to get into, its so much happier at my house. im too happy to be depressed.

  10. o my goodness, yes, my cats have saved me more than once! I knew that if i died my mom would kill my cats faster than you can blink, so i stayed for them…

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