Paws and Effect
This week, Silvermoon asks, Can my cat tell I'm sick? The answer is rich, complex, and an indication of the love cats share with their people.

Cats know a lot more about us than many people think.

Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:

Hi guys! I love your blog! So my story is a little complicated and I hope you’ll bear with me. When I was 12 years old, I was just hitting deep puberty. My cycles started and my single father did not know how to deal with this, so that summer, he sent me cross country to stay with my grandmother so she could teach me what I needed to know. During this summer, a stray cat wandered into my dad’s house, a boy my dad named Dominick. While video chatting with my dad he showed me this cat.I fell in love with him and renamed him Buyo after a cat from a show I liked. When I came home from my grandmother’s, he’d already been there a few weeks, but he attached to me instantly. I’m almost 26 now and he’s currently curled up against my arm purring as I type this. Here’s my question. I was born with HIV, and also about the time Buyo came into my life, I was developing a condition called idiopathic thrombocytopenia purpura, which is very like hemophilia (platelet deficiency). My teenage years were riddled with medication and hospital stays. Buyo’s stayed by my side through all that, plus cross state moves, college, marriage and then some. I’ve always wondered if he picked me because he could tell I was sick, or if I’m simply his type of person. Maybe you could share some insight? Thanks!

~ Silvermoon

Thomas: First of all, Silvermoon, thank you for asking this question. A lot of cat lovers ask the question, “Can my cat tell I’m sick?” And the answer is complex, nuanced, and shows the deep love that cats and their people can have for one another.

Bella: Based on our experience as cats, we believe that Buyo originally bonded with you because you share a similar energy. That’s how we cats decide who to adopt–we see a person’s energy and gravitate toward them.

Tara: But cats also have a remarkable ability to tell when people need them.

Thomas: Our mama has a chronic illness, too, and she says we help her a lot when she’s having bad days.

Bella: In the scientific world, the jury is still out on whether cats can detect illness. The studies that have been done have been more about whether cats can detect a person’s emotional energy, and those studies have been pretty small.

Tara: But there’s lots of anecdotal evidence that the answer to the question “Can my cat tell I’m sick?” is definitely yes.

Thomas: For example, one cat was able to detect her person’s epileptic seizures before they occurred. And some cats have been able to detect low blood sugar in their diabetic owners.

Bella: We even found a news story about a cat who can detect low blood sugar in her human boy, who has diabetes:

Tara: We certainly know when Mama’s in a lot of pain from her illness and we spend lots of time with her, purring on her sore spots to help them feel better.

Thomas: We also help Mama if she has a cold or something and she’s feeling bad from that. Purr therapy works wonders for humans, we’ve found.

Bella: From what it sounds like, you and Buyo have a very special bond, and it’s not the least bit surprising that he wants to be with you and do everything he can to take care of you. That’s a great gift, and not one to be taken lightly.

Tara: So, Silvermoon, while there’s no body of research on whether cats can detect illness, there are plenty of people with stories about their cats picking up on things going on with their health even before they and their doctors do.

Thomas: So even in the face of a lack of scientific evidence, we believe the answer to the question “can my cat tell I’m sick?” is an unequivocal yes.

Bella: We imagine Buyo always knew there was something special about you, and he adopted you because he wants to be a part of your life.

Tara: The ability to be a “kitty nurse” is just one of the many beautiful things about the relationship you and he share. Enjoy it, and cherish every moment. It sounds like Buyo is a really wonderful feline companion.

Thomas: What about you other readers? What do you think the answer to the question “can my cat tell I’m sick?” is? Have you had a cat that can tell when you’re sick? Has your cat helped you get through an illness or other hard times? Please share your stories in the comments!

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