Suffering from Homesickness? Get a Cat. You’ll Soon be Feline Better…

According to recent medical research, owning a cat can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, improve your immunity, lower your blood pressure, help depression, reduce stress and anxiety and even lengthen your life. I would like to add my own (highly scientific) findings to these: having a cat helps with homesickness too.

For the last two years a good friend out here has been telling me to get a cat. She knows I’m a cat sort of a person, but I’ve always shied away from the commitment. Being an expat can feel horribly temporary, you see: our most precious belongings are in storage, we hire rather than own a car, our jobs are less secure than in the UK and there is always the risk that, at any time, our visas could be withdrawn and we would have to return home at short notice. This temporary feeling is, I believe, a significant factor in homesickness: the stay abroad becomes a sort of purgatory; rather than being a valid experience in itself it is merely a long and empty wait to return home. A vicious cycle is created: life here feels temporary so we don’t want to commit to anything and we don’t commit to anything so life feels even more temporary. Getting a cat was something of a leap of faith then, our attempt at breaking the cycle. And it seems to be working.

Her name is Maddy and she is a very pretty little tortoiseshell. She is a rescue cat and had an unhappy kittenhood (I won’t go into the details as it makes me too angry, but she has a damaged left eye and sometimes looks like she’s crying. We love her more for this). She is still quite nervous but is really starting to trust us now and sleeps between us at night, purring like a furry little engine. She comes to the door and says hello (in cat language, obviously) when I get home, she trots along beside me as I potter around the apartment, chattering away (again, mainly in cat language – which I’m starting to get the hang of), and she likes playing with ribbons. She is snuggled up on the sofa next to me as I am writing this and keeps kneading and nuzzling my leg. I am stroking her chin between sentences. She likes that. She is a smiley sort of cat. My husband didn’t believe that cats could smile until he met Maddy.

I have always believed that pets make a house into a home (when we lived in London we had three particularly charismatic goldfish called Bergerac, Axl and Albert Finney – apologies for the appalling pun – and an enigmatic water snail called Fernando); pets bring life, humour and warmth to a place – and something else too, something anchoring. Their simple needs and pleasures put our funny old, messy lives into perspective. We are their whole world and that is a wonderfully grounding thing.

Maddy is a flat cat (that is to say that she lives in the apartment and doesn’t go outside – she hasn’t been run over or anything) and quite happy to be – after her rather traumatic start in life she is now purr-fectly content to while away the afternoons dozing on her blanket, playing with the rug and climbing up her cat tree; but I do sometimes daydream about taking her home to England… Perhaps we would live in a little cottage with a garden and she could chase mice, watch the birds, climb real trees and snooze in the catnip all summer; and in the winter she could stretch out in front of the log fire, attack the Christmas decorations and do that hilarious cat-ballet through freshly fallen snow. Sigh. Now I’m thinking about home again…


  1. I like how you described cats as bringing anchoring. A great description!

    • She is particularly anchoring when she sleeps on my legs at night 🙂 Glad you like the post!

  2. I am more of a dog person, myself, but I completely agree with the sentiment.

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