While away travelling with a tour group in Wales last year, the cat people would commiserate over how much we missed our cats. Unofficially, mine is my emotional comfort animal; at home I listen to his purring when I feel tense or sad, and it helps me feel better. Of course, I couldn’t take him on a plane or on the trip with me.
“I made a recording on my phone of my cat Swiss purring,” I announced somewhat proudly. “I watch and listen to it when I miss him.”
This was greeted with looks of envy. “What a great idea.”
I didn’t tell them I also close my eyes, listen and imagine I’m holding his soft warm vibrating body in my arms. Pressing kisses against his ginger fur. Picturing how I make him purr louder when I give him a squeeze as if he is part bagpipe. Imagining his slightly stinky cat breath aroma. My uncontrollable sneezes from his airborne fur.
This relaxation anti-anxiety mind therapy tool is personal to me. Nobody ever recommended it. I came up with it on my own in 2017, based on CBT or Cognitive Behaviour Therapy techniques. I’ve read about other people using real dogs, chickens, cats, hamsters or peacocks as emotional support animals.
I can’t see myself using the real Swiss for stressful situations while I’m out and about. What if he’s noisy? What if he poops? What if somebody’s allergic? I don’t have PTSD or a mental condition where an emotional support animal is required. I have mild to moderate anxiety.
After more thinking, I realized how I could improve things for the next time I travel by plane or have to spend too long without my cat. I have a soft stuffed cat named Ginger, who I’ve had for years. He smells like Swiss; they sleep together. Ginger’s small and would fit in a carry-on, and also work as a neck pillow. So with him along, I get a bit of Swiss’s smell, see Swiss’s picture or video, touch soft stuffy that reminds me of Swiss, and hear his purring sound through my earbuds so nobody else on the plane would even notice. Even if you can’t hear, that still gives sight, touch and smell for anti-anxiety. Something to hug and hold with no worries about getting refused boarding, glares, rude remarks, or all the things I stress over when travelling. I don’t care if people think I’m weird.
I wonder if other people could use the same technique. Use their imagination with emotional support animal photos, video or audio recordings on their phone, and a soft stuffy that reminds them of their comfort animal. Prepped to smell like their comfort animal. To hug and hold for anti-anxiety when their comfort animal can’t be with them. I wonder if it would help other people like me.
Photo Credit Chris Abney at Unsplash
Jan L. Mayes MSc writes horror fiction and non-fiction, and is an international Eric Hoffer Award winning author, blogger and audiologist specializing in noise, tinnitus-hyperacusis, hearing health education and plotting murders. Her writing has been featured at Tinnitus Today, Communique, silencity.com and The Horror News Daily.