Link columnist Beth Ritchie finds that her cats have lessons to teach.
Trigger warning – This article discusses things related to cats that like to hunt, death and dying. If you’re not in a place to cope with that right now, please read something else!
Doctors usually say that patients should wait around two weeks before the benefits of antidepressants start to kick in. This is interesting to me, because in an attempt to take back control of my own mental health I recently returned to my favourite natural anti-depressant of all, walking. Aiming to walk an hour a day, I started a week and a half ago and although progress has been slow, today I have felt a noticeable shift.
Seriously. It’s like something has lifted and the (natural) drugs have kicked in and I suddenly feel more myself than I have in ages. Things had gotten so bad for me that I came off social media (and those that know me know that things have to be serious for me to get to that point).
I know I’m not alone though. The ongoing pandemic, and the slide into the cold winter months, following an elusive summer which no one seemed to be able to make the most of, seems to have forced a collective malaise among the people around me, and I believe, wider society.
Nothing for it then but to do what we can to feel better, in whatever capacity that means to you.
Movement is my medicine, and while I make sure I do a standard lifting/cardio workout every morning (without which I don’t think I’d survive), for the serious blues I love to walk. There’s nothing like sticking my gigantic headphones on and stomping along in time to dance music to lift my spirits. And although I’ve been back pounding the streets for over a week now, it’s taken until today for the black cloud to noticeably shift.
It’s kind of surprising that walking helps me, really. Not only because walking makes me think even more (and overthinking tends to be my downfall most of the time), but also because I have to traipse past a veritable graveyard of dead things on my driveway before I reach the freedom of my walk.
I have two cats, both of whom are keen hunters. Rarely a day goes by that I don’t have to deal with a “present” that they have brought into the house. And while I do deal with dead things in the house swiftly, I have a general rule that outdoor gifts can be left alone for nature to take its course (I feel like I spend enough of my time handling dead things, thanks to both of my cats' hunting habits).
But around two weeks ago, a full size (and when I say full size, I mean roughly the size of a small dog) dead rat appeared on my driveway. I know that this is the work of my older, more experienced cat, Charlie. (Nigel, the young one, hasn’t graduated past baby mice yet.) Charlie has been known to catch these beasts before, and living close to the lakes means that there’s no shortage of stock for him to hunt from.
This poor old rat has been driven over so many times that within a couple of days he was flat as a gruesome pancake. Watching his demise as his body returns to mother earth has been a fascinating experience for me and my two kids, both of whom love to give me rat updates when they get home from school. We even felt it served as a macabre but eco-friendly Halloween decoration. We saved a few bob, and didn’t have to feel bad about the environment (or clear it up the next day).
Then there’s the petrified frog that has been there so long that it's pretty much a permanent fixture. I have no idea how or why, but it seems to be immune to the decomposition process. Frogs are another common visitor to my garden, but I haven’t seen my cats hunt them before, so I have no idea what happened to him. Maybe he got scared by the rat.
In my darkest times, these grisly reminders that we’ll all return to earth one day was just another reason to feel glum and ponder the stark reality of death.
But now that things have started to turn around for me, I see it is a kind of transformation really. Looking up to the changing leaves, and watching the season turn, I can move on from the darkness and step out into the winter sun.
Poor old Mr Rat has almost completed his journey, and I thank him for his service in teaching a worthy lesson to me and my kids that even though we might go through a tough time, we’ll come out the other side transformed (and in the case of Mr Rat, free from the confines of his earthly body and the inquisitive eyeballing of humans).
Gratitude is always a useful tool in bringing hope to even the bleakest of days. Keep smiling, people.