Afternoon Inquisition

Sunday AI: OMGWTF and Pets

So, I was catching up on my news reading this morning, and stumbled across this horrific story. And seriously, it’s bad–don’t click this link unless you are prepared:

Man Sets Woman on Fire in Elevator

“Police are questioning a man in connection with the death of a New York City woman who was set on fire in the elevator of her apartment building”

The reason I noticed this story was that the murderer dressed as an exterminator–and used a pesticide rig to spray the women with gasoline.  This was a pre-meditated attack, which makes it even more inexplicable and awful, if that’s possible.

I spent a while being horrified about this, and angry, and hating humans in general. And then my cat jumped into my lap and demanded I pay attention to her. And I started feeling better.  Then I went and watched a video of a baby otter, and was ready to face the world again.

There is a fair amount of evidence accumulating that pets can help patients deal with stress and improve mental health.  You can read an entire Handbook of Animal-Assisted Therapy online, which assembles the data, theory, and best practices of what has become a type of alternative therapy I can actually get behind.

So, having a pet really does seem to help us deal with the upsetting events of life–including horrific violence against women (again).

Do you have a pet? Does it help you deal with strong emotions?  Can you post a photo of it so we can all feel better?  Is it a copout if you read a story like this and then go look at otters?

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 3pm ET.


Bug_girl has a PhD in Entomology, and is a pointy-headed former academic living in Ohio. She is obsessed with insects, but otherwise perfectly normal. Really! If you want a daily stream of cool info about bugs, follow her Facebook page or find her on Twitter.

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  1. I’m reminded of a cartoon flowchart of how cats lower blood pressure. On one side, the cat jumps on your lap,purrs, and makes you feel content, lowering your blood pressure. On the other, the cat jumps in your lap, freaks out and scratches you, compromising your circulatory system, thereby lowering your blood pressure.

      1. Thanks, I did good in the finding cute beings to share my life with.
        Roo’s eyes are almost white, really interestingly spooky close up.
        After a long snowy hike her and Darwin (our other dog) are snuggled on the lounge with me. They really are the best.

  2. I don’t know if my cats (Duchesse and her daughter Ada Lovelace) help me with strong emotions, but they definitely help alleviate my longing for physical closeness. Sweden’s not a very cuddly country, and I’m not the most outgoing of people, but my cats are there for me! And you can see them occasionally in my twitter feed (my yfrog account is full of them).

  3. Hmm. I am currently cruising at 37K feet, having just flown from Austin to West Palm Beach to deliver a dog I’ve been fostering to a good home. There are few lengths to which I will not go for my pets. I wouldn’t be crammed into this middle seat right now if I didn’t believe in the value of a furry kid. Heading home to my own two pups, who will be ridiculously happy to see me – happy enough to make me forget my really, really long day.

  4. What the… ?!!!! What on earth is WRONG with people! Who puts together that much of a plan to such horrid ends? That poor woman! Those poor neighbors!

    I need cats. I share my two pudgy, lazy bums with you here.

  5. I saw that story on the N.Y. Times site right before I went to bed last. This is not something you want to see right before you head off to bed. Sure enough, I woke up a 6:00 dreaming about it.

  6. I used to work for the anti-cruelty service of a large animal shelter and we saw some really terrible things. Nothing improved a very bad day like taking a walk past the wall of kittens waiting to be spayed and neutered for adoption. 30 two-month old kittens in one room would calm anyone.
    You know, unless you were allergic.

    1. Even then. When I was in my teens, my best friend was allergic to cats, but loved them. Our cat liked to ride around on your shoulder, and it was not unusual to see my friend walking around with the cat, holding a kleenex to his nose to staunch the bleeding.

  7. After a recent custody/time-sharing hearing that did not go as I had hoped, I had a lot of pent up anger and stress. I didn’t really have a good outlet and was simply trying to ignore it (pretty much impossible) and go about my business. I can’t have pets in my rental and have never been much of a large furry animal person anyhow, but last Friday I read the article about the rats possibly showing empathy and for some reason that really helped. Don’t get me wrong, I still have a lot of stress and anger, but I can feel the difference from before. I think I might just go read that article again.

  8. I was initially ticked off at the story because the headlines all read “Woman dies in elevator fire”, like it was some freak accident. They didn’t mention it was cold blooded murder unless you opened the story.

    My own “it’s all lies I didn’t do it” cat passed away a couple years back, and I don’t have the time to properly care for another just now.

    But I help care for the family beagle, who will be 16 in few months, about three years after he was given 3 months to live do to cancer

  9. My mother lives in an aged care facility with all the other farmers wives whose families are either too far away or too busy with their own lives. Relatives do what they can. Most male farmers either die in the paddocks or very shortly after leaving the farm.
    Of the 46 in-care patients, only 2 are male. None of the nursing staff or admin are men, but I digress.
    In the hostel these women who were so used to nurturing their own children and many other growing lives, have a gap now and a need of growing young lives. Plants and gardening only cover a fraction of care and love these women have to offer. Many in their 90’s and 2 centenarians. So when I bring the dogs in ( I have two ex-farm dogs )their eyes light up. The dogs have retired and seem to be able to smell the earth in these old women, and the women love to see their old familiar mates.. ” he looks just like our old boy Bluey!” it does a young lads ( I’m 58 ) heart good. The nursing staff are having Bring Your Pets Day in now and I can tell you, on those days these aged bent over old women are 25 again hanging out the washing and looking at the skies for rain as they pat ole mate Bluey or Red or Skip..hahaha. Nothing connects like a dog.

  10. Yeah, Andiis, good on you for spending time with your mother and the other old ladies, and agreed, nothing connects like a good dog!

    Funny, I just read that link on the ABC site before logging in here, and was feeling sickened and gutted like all of you. This thread has perked me up a bit, seeing all of you love animals too.

    Virtual hugs to Bug and all of you!

    (My avatar’s name was Jezabel, lovingly remembered)

  11. My wife and I care for two parrots. The one is rescue; he’s a wild-caught Maximillian Pionus. He’s not hand tamed; we are essentially providing him a retirement home.
    The other parrot is a Sun Conure and she is a lot of fun. Very active and very affectionate (although, occasionally she must have the tast of sweet, sweet flesh in her beak).
    As an added bonus, they are my “in” with my neices and nephews. When they come over they want to know everything about them and hold them and feed them.

  12. Two black cats, both rescued. Neko was a stray a friend (with allergies) found and Grim was adopted from a cat shelter. Both drive me nuts and are the cutest things ever. Grim is my cuddle buddy, if I am sitting or laying down he is on my lap/back/head.

  13. I couldn’t read the article. But, in answer to your questions, yes, yes, no, no.

    Right now there’s one cat on the table, and another in the comfy chair across the room. The other cats are elsewhere in the house. Oh, here comes one of our foster cats walking into the room. Currently we have 14 cats in the house, between our cats, the long and short term fosters, and the rehabs. If I’ve had a hard day, my SO will often comment that I need some Kitty Therapy.

    Kitty Therapy helps me deal with a lot of crap. I’ve been known to take a cat to work (though not recently), and the admin assistant says I’m nicer to be around when I have a cat with me.

    I can’t post pictures because I’m a Luddite. But, trust me, they’re adorable.

    Kittens make me stupid–I swear my IQ drops 50 points when I’m around them. I volunteer for a cat TNR (trap-neuter-return) group, and when it’s kitten season, the cuteness is overwhelming–almost painful. Once a month we TNR about 150 cats in a weekend, so the adorableness density gets pretty high. And although they’re considered feral cats, some of them do love to be scritched through the traps.

    I just ordered this shirt from Best Friends:

    My life is basically work and cats. And knitting. Which is not very compatible with cats.

  14. I got a cat 14 years ago when I first moved out of the house. I was extremely depressed at the time and was near-suicidal occasionally. She probably saved my life. When you’re in a depression that deep, it seems like nothing you do has any worth, that you don’t matter, that you could disappear and no one would miss you. Except now who would feed my cat? I remember once looking down and seeing this beautiful tiny kitten in my lap all happy and purring (she smiles, seriously – and I thought, -I- did this. I made her happy. She is happy and safe and purring because of -me-. It was the first time in a long time I felt like I mattered. She’s still my little baby, and I’ve had a couple other cats since then, all rescues. They really keep me grounded, they don’t judge me and they make me laugh and smile even when I don’t think I can.

    Also – OMGWTF

  15. I hate this. I really hate it. Why wasn’t this woman being taken care of? I know the deinstitutionalization (and isn’t that a $2 word?) movement in psychology was supposed to be a good thing, but it left people vulnerable, with no oversight and at risk for crap like this.
    As I’m ranting, my kitty Mo (Asmodeus) is crawling across my neck, purring up a storm and drooling on my collar. I can put him down, but he’s not happy unless he can touch mama at all times. I know he’s satisfied when he sighs and gives a final butt wiggle. No matter how bad the anxiety and frustration can get, I always have my kitties to calm me down. It’s hard to get mad at a cat who squeaks when she tries to meow and purrs like an industrial jack-hammer. :)

  16. My ancient, semi-toothless, neurotic cat seems to be able to predict the beginnings of my PTSD-related issues. I have been snuggled through many a flashback and anxiety attack, which definitely was good for my mental/physical health.

  17. I have a cat named Joy (as in Ode To). I finally got a good picture of her posted to FB and Google+. It is hard to photograph an all-black cat, especially one so co-dependent that she views any attention as a reason to be up my nose with her head.

  18. My cat definitely makes me feel better. When I was a moody hormonal teenager, I felt like nobody understood me except my cats. They never yelled at me to clean my room or teased me about the way I looked. I know it sounds so corny, but that was really important during that time.

    Now that I’m an adult and have a cat, it gives me a feeling of being needed. It makes me feel more grown-up, in a way. I’ve had this cat since my sophomore year of college when I moved into my own apartment, and he’s actually one of the cats I grew up with. It has always made my apartment feel more like a home. It makes me look forward to going home after work. It will be really hard on me when he dies.

  19. Can someone please remind me why a woman shouldn’t feel uneasy about being alone in an elevator with a strange man again?

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