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Earlier this week, my feline fur baby Rocky passed away. He was 21 years old.
Rocky was more than a pet. He, as my daughter and I joked, was my soul cat! I have had many pets during my lifetime. And although I loved them all, there wasn’t the connection that Rocky and I shared.
Rocky knew what was going on with my chronic body better than any doctor. He also detected things that did not belong in my body when modern technology failed.
We hear stories all the time about dogs and cats detecting cancer in their owners. We know that dogs can be trained to warn patients of a seizure. But what about chronic illness and pain?
Do dogs and cats know when fibromyalgia, autoimmune arthritis, or endometriosis flares are on the horizon? What about active flares? Are we paying attention to what our pets are trying to tell us?
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A Pet Like No Other
Rocky was unlike any pet I have ever had. I never considered myself a cat person. Growing up with dogs, I never really considered having a cat for a pet.
Then one day, my son returned home from school holding this tiny black and white furball. It was love at first sight! When I turned to ask my husband if we could keep him, he knew there was only one right answer.
Rocky was four months old and had been living on the streets. Other than wanting to make a run every time a door was opened so he could go outside to climb trees, he adapted to life as an indoor cat.
He was actually my second cat. My first was an outdoor cat that lost his life to coyotes that roamed our neighborhood at night. After his death, I swore that my next cat would be a strictly indoor cat. That is if I ever had another.
Within weeks of joining the family, I noticed something different about Rocky. He and I shared a connection that I never had with any other pet. It was like he knew me better than I knew myself.
As strange as it sounds, he knew when fatigue was about to take over my body. He would signal that I needed to lie down by swirling around my ankles and then running to my bed. The funny part is that he began noticing my symptoms six months before receiving my first chronic illness diagnosis of psoriasis.
Rocky’s Response to Arthritis Pain
Although my psoriatic arthritis and fibromyalgia diagnoses were made two years after my diagnosis of psoriasis, I had been experiencing symptoms from them all for several years before welcoming Rocky into the family. And even though I was clueless about what was going on with my body, Rocky was on the job.
As I stated earlier, he knew when I needed to rest. At the time, I just thought he liked taking naps with me! Ha Ha! It wasn’t until psoriatic disease began affecting my hands that I realized that there was a lot more to how this cat interacted with me.
Before and after my psoriatic arthritis diagnosis, Rocky sensed the pain in my hands. Whenever I began petting him with pain-riddled hands, he would use his paws to gently push my hand away. Then he would lie down over them. This prevented me from using them and also allowed him to work his pain-relieving powers. He would lie across my hands and purr. The warmth of his belly and his purring would calm me and provide a massage-like relief to my hands.
As the progression of my autoimmune arthritic pain continued, so did Rocky’s attention. When my spine became the worst pain point, he would lie across my back, directly over the damaged joints. If my feet or knees were aching, he would lie across them and force me to sit still.
Looking back now, I can see how he taught me the importance of resting with certain pain levels.
Typically, Rocky hated to be held. Yet whenever I flared, he allowed me to hold and pet him for as long as I needed. He also put up with my daughter and me when we would dress him up. But only when I was flaring!
How My Cat Detected a Health Issue That Doctors and Tests Failed to Notice
The most significant thing Rocky detected was a mass that was embedded into my abdominal wall.
In 2004 my OBGYN performed exploratory surgery and discovered a large ovarian cyst that had adhered to my uterus, left fallopian tube, and bladder. It was also adhered to my sidewall and had pulled the other organs to it as well. In addition, I was diagnosed with endometriosis. A hysterectomy in 2005 was supposed to be the end of my pain.
Unfortunately, it was not the end but instead the beginning of a lifelong nightmare. The same pain that had been tormenting me before the hysterectomy returned, but it was even worse this time!
It took two years and 21 surgical consultations to get answers and begin addressing the damage. During that time, 20 surgeons each refused to help me. Five of them said I needed a psychiatrist because tests did not indicate a reason for the pain. Others said they didn’t deal with “woman” issues or looked over my file, saw my fibromyalgia diagnosis, and said it was to blame.
I Should Have Consulted With A Cat
Rocky, on the other hand, knew something was wrong. And he also knew what and where it was. While I would lie in bed sobbing from the pain, Rocky would gently place his paw where the mass that would later be discovered in surgery was located.
During those two years, the mass would rip from my sidewall and then embed itself into another portion of that muscle. And Rocky pointed out each move. After the discovery surgery, I showed my surgeon the areas that Rocky had shown me, and he confirmed that there was scarring in each area that was evidence of the mass embedding and being pulled from the muscle.
Not one imaging scan showed the mass. The mass itself turned out to be a large portion of my left fallopian tube that was infected and covered with endometriosis and adhesions.
When My Pain Became Too Much
Approximately five years after becoming my comfort cat, my pain levels became too severe for him to handle. Do you remember the movie The Green Mile and how John Coffey would release a person’s illness after healing them? That is similar to what Rocky would do.
After comforting a pain source, he would leave my side and then vomit on the floor. It was as if my pain was too much for him to bear. He later began checking my pain level before lying on my body by first lightly patting the source. If he deemed it too high, he would lie near me but not on my body. And he continued this pattern until his dying day.
Caring For Each Other Until The End
We cared for each other.
I thought for sure we were going to lose him when he turned 13. He began missing his mark when jumping on furniture. He also began hiding under my bed and spending more time alone. At that time, I had just begun medicating with cannabis. And because of how well it was helping me, I decided to see if it could help him.
Cannabis helped him more than I could have ever imagined. He reverted back to his playful kitten-like ways. His problems with jumping ended, as did his time in isolation.
When I began PEMF therapy to fight inflammation of my spine, he joined me for daily treatments. There were even times when he would sneak off with it and enjoy a solo treatment!
Even during his final hours, my senior feline made sure I was cared for. As we laid together, I held his paws with my fingers. He then pulled one paw out and placed it over mine. And he kept it there until the end.
I promised him I would be okay, but I am not. I have never hurt so deeply over the loss of a pet. But as my daughter said, Rocky was more than a pet. He was my soul-cat.
Can Cats Detect Illness In Humans?
Yes, no, maybe so…..
A quick Google search of “can cats detect illness in humans” only produced personal accounts and no scientific data. I am emotionally and physically wiped out and will do more research at a later date. However, the stories that I did come across and my own personal experience made me believe.
I say yes because my cat did detect illness and pain. He also knew when I needed to rest my hands and body and forced me to do so. There is proof of internal damage in the areas Rocky pointed to.
I say no, and maybe because I do not believe every cat has the same level of detection ability. With that said, even if each cat did, they may only detect these things in humans they develop a deep connection to. I have had many pets. We still have two pets living with us. But none of them connected with me the way Rocky did.
What do you think?
Can cats detect illness in humans?
Have you experienced anything like this with a former or current pet?