Can’t cope with my kitten

My parents surprised me with a kitten for Christmas. Thing is, I have depression and this kitten is just one more thing to worry about. Don’t worry, says our elder. You don’t have to keep her. But give it a try before reaching a final decision.

Dear EWC

I have an issue with my parents and I don’t know how to handle it. I’ve had depression for a while, but lately it’s gotten pretty bad. I’m getting professional help, but it’s still a struggle. I have a cat and sometimes I can barely take care of myself. Somedays feeding her is the only thing I can do, and I feel so guilty because cats need love and affection and I’m struggling to give her that.

Well, my parents just surprised me with an early Christmas present. It’s a kitten. I couldn’t stop myself, I cried all evening. All I see is another emotional burden, something that needs love and attention. I feel guilty enough about whether I’m giving my first cat a good enough life, and now there’s a second one. I’d sorta understand if she had been a stray cat or a friend’s in need of a home, but they went and spent money on her! And she obviously can’t just be returned. I tried explaining my feelings but they just brushed off my concerns. Plus I feel awful because I know they expected me to be excited and happy but I’m miserable. I love my first cat, more than I like myself most days. I know they bought this new cat with the best intentions, but the fact still remains that they’ve given me another living thing for me to disappoint, worry about, and feel guilty over. I can’t make them understand how much I’m upset about this cat. They think it’s some kind of low self-esteem thing. I just want someone to understand my feelings and give any kind of advice on the situation. Thank you.

Linda replies

I believe I do understand your feelings, because I often struggle with the same guilt issues involving my own little dog. She is especially needy and when I go out for long periods of time, particularly at night, I am riddled with guilt about her being left alone. I feel this way almost every day at one point or another. It makes me question why I ever opted to get a pet. But then I try and envision my life without her and it feels very empty indeed.

One of the things I wish I’d done in the beginning was get a second dog. It’s a well known fact that all animals do better living in a pack, even if that pack consists of two dogs — or two cats. What you may discover after a while is the kitten will monopolize your older cat’s attention. Kittens are so playful and this new little kitty will do everything it can to seek out your older cat in order to torment her. At first you may think this is a bad thing but eventually the two of them will bond and begin to pal around together. This might do a lot to alleviate your guilt concerning pet ownership and your cat’s need for affection. She will need less of your time and affection with a playmate in the house.

Scientific studies have also proven that petting either cats or dogs reduces one’s blood pressure and brings about a sense of inner peace. I know this to be true for myself since I have often sought out my dog when I’m upset or stressed over something. As soon as I lay my hand on her back I can literally feel the tension in my body subside and a sense of well being taking its place.

I am glad you are seeking professional help for your depression and/or anxiety. My daughter battles with these issues as well. She is the owner of two pugs and when everything else in her life feels hopeless, she smothers them with love and devotion. On her worst day feeding them is about all she can manage to do but the joy and companionship they provide more than make up for the responsibility involved.

I hope you find ways to alleviate your stress and anxiety. Exercise has always been my go-to remedy for stress or depression. If you have not tried it, I strongly recommend it. There are so many options out there, from running, walking, biking, skating, yoga, pilates, organized sports and so much more. Exercise releases the body’s endorphins which greatly reduce anxiety and depression.

Although I certainly do understand why this unexpected gift has thrown you into a tailspin, give it a try for a while to see if both cats eventually bond. Since you already have to feed and clean up after one cat, one more shouldn’t make that much difference to your routine. If in the end, however, you absolutely cannot abide having a second cat, then you can consider re-homing this kitten. Someone you know may want it or you can take it to a no-kill shelter until a home can be found.

Here’s the bottom line. Even though your parents gave you this kitten as an early Christmas gift, that does not mean you are stuck with it. Anyone who gives a living creature to another person as a gift, runs the risk that gift may not be appreciated. This includes your parents, however well meaning they may have been. In the end they must respect your feelings concerning whether or not you want to keep this cat. It’s a very long commitment and therefore should be your decision alone.

Please just consider some of the things I have said before making your final decision. I wish you the very best.

Letter #: 415404
Category: Family

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