Contributed by Michael D. Friedlander, DVM

I have this strange habit most mornings. I get up quite early, make my coffee, and sit in silence with the lights out, sipping and reflecting on the day ahead. It’s a time to begin my day with gratitude, positivity and focus, looking ahead to how I might consider approaching the duties and priorities ahead of me, and to how I might end my day.  I do not quite know when it all really became my routine, but I miss it when I am running late or there is an early emergency at the practice. I cannot recall any instance of my morning ritual without a cat at my side, even if I cannot take my usual length of quiet time.

According to a leading expert at the Minnesota Stroke Institute, the list of diseases that appear to improve, stabilize or both from the presence of pets in our lives includes heart disease, cancer, and diabetes to name a few. This presence is reported to have positive effects on a wide spectrum of health issues, including wound healing, immune response and developmental issues: Children living with pets develop stronger, healthier immune systems and have a lower risk of autism and other developmental obstacles, while learning a sense of responsibility. The children of pet-owning families we see in our practice are often well balanced emotionally and express remarkable empathy.

I have had the fortune to meet many cats over the years, and I still contend that they teach me continuously. Their lessons are sometimes tragic when they just cannot go on and their care-takers are not ready to let go; their lessons are miraculous and show me their resilience and the unconditional love they have inside when I think their light is ready to go out. I cannot imagine my life without the furry, unconditional love and community I receive continuously from cats—both my patients and my personal little loved ones truly guide me, coach me, and insist that they get my attention at times often inconvenient.

The incredible “in the moment” respite I receive daily from those little guys gathering around me, seemingly enjoying my sips of coffee just as much as I do, nuzzling my mediation book, head-butting the coffee cup, stretching for a belly rub and purring so loudly and incessantly that I cannot meditate…this is the stuff of connection, unconditional loving trust, and hope I crave each day.

May you snuggle with your cat and sit in the moment of their life as they do yours!

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