A personal ode to Benji the Cat for National Pet Day
“I have had thoughts of wanting to kill myself,” were the terrifying words I said to my sister last fall after being scared I was actually going through with it.
Normally I would have never gone to my sister about this. (If she ever reads this piece I do not want her to get offended and think I do not love or trust her. It is simply because I would never want to put anyone I love in distress.) For me to tell her meant it was a pretty dire situation.
Depression gradually seeped into my life as I entered adolescence. I started to get bullied in high school. On top of that, I still wasn’t rid of the effects of the abuse I endured as a child. What happened to me during my first four years of life impact how I think about how I’m entering adulthood.
If you go on my Instagram page you will see a happy, smiling girl who has a boyfriend, many friends and is involved in a sorority, the Jewish community, and more at the University of Kansas. You may be wondering why I was so damn unhappy.
After my heavy confession to my sister, I started seeing a therapist regularly. When I was feeling so low that I wanted to end my life, I felt like I would never “be fixed.” I asked myself questions like, “How are my peers so happy and I am not, even though some people would chop off their right arm to be in my shoes?”
Something my therapist and I talked about was getting an emotional support animal since I live off-campus. I have been told numerous stories and reasons why getting a pet in college is a horrible idea. Hell, at this point I could barely take care of myself. Why was getting a pet a good idea?
Late one restless night in January, I was scrolling through Facebook and saw a woman in Iowa who had one little flame-point Siamese kitten who needed a home. I felt excited because Siamese cats are a good breed for those with cat allergies because they produce lower Fel d 1 proteins. Hypoallergenic cats are very hard to come by and usually would have to be unethically obtained from a breeder.
So, as one would do, I messaged this woman at 12:30 a.m. under the assumption someone else had already claimed dibs and went to sleep. I woke up to a message saying I am first in line. There was a long list of people who were interested, so I needed to make a decision soon.
After long deliberation, I decided to make the 11-hour roundtrip drive to pick up the nine-week-old kitten. I may have thought Cedar Falls, IA was the same thing as Sioux Falls, IA but that didn’t stop me. My boyfriend volunteered to drive because he wanted to meet the little guy too and make sure I was safe. I continued communication with the current owner and did other measures to make sure this was not a scam. Still, there was a possibility we could drive 5-and-a-half hours for something bad to happen.
Ever since adopting Benji, I have not had any suicidal thoughts. Not one.
Raising a kitten is a challenge, but I would not trade Benji, who is now four months old, for anything in the world. On the drive to Iowa, I got the chills because I was so nervous to have a living thing in my care. I worried that those who told me it would be too much and I would have to rehome him would be right.
Within the first week, Benji gave me a reason to get out of bed every day. He lays on my lap while I do homework or write articles like this one. Sometimes I cry laughing because of the silly things gets himself into. As a team, we have proven the negative things I was told wrong.
Yesterday was National Pet Day, so this is my ode to Benji. He is one of the best things that has ever happened in my life—but because he doesn’t know English, he will never know this. However, I can continue to give Benji the happiest and healthiest life possible to show him how thankful I am for him and how much I love him.
If you feel a longing for a Benji in your life but do not feel like it is right to adopt, KC Pet Project is looking for foster families for the Home Away From Home program for pet owners in crisis. Having a bundle of happiness at home can encourage a happy, healthier lifestyle both physically and mentally.
If you were wondering if the hypoallergenic thing is complete bullshit, I can assure you it’s not. Follow Benji’s growth and see his silliest and happiest moments on Instagram @benjitheflame. His recent visit to The Pitch office is detailed on the Streetwise podcast which can be heard here.
If you or a loved one is struggling with suicidal thoughts, a list of suicide prevention resources, including ones for substance abuse, veterans, LGBTQ+ youth, and more can be found here.