Christopherson Column: Money can buy happiness? Yes, it’s $20 a jar

Mike Christopherson
Crookston Times

    You can’t put a price tag on happiness, it’s said. But can money, in fact, buy you happiness?

    Maybe not actual happiness, but if it gets you out from under the couch in a dark basement, that’s worth a few bucks, is it not?         

    Around 20 bucks a bottle, to be precise.

    “If this doesn’t change your cat’s behavior, I want to see him, quickly.”

    That’s what the veterinarian said when we brought our new Siberian husky puppy in for some initial vaccinations and told him that introducing the canine to our human and feline-occupied dwelling had thrown our cats for a loop.

    One of our two cats actually rolled with the change fairly well. In human years, apparently he’s in his mid-80s, so he probably sent out some sort of animal vibe that humans are unable to sense when he first went nose-to-nose with the new arrival that made it clear to the pup that this particular lilac Siamese cat was not about to change his ways for anyone.

    But the other cat, about twice as big as the two-month old puppy when we brought her home and possessing claws big and fierce enough to probably tear her entire nose off with one vicious swipe…well, that was another story.

    It all reminded me of a phone conversation I overheard my wife having with a friend not too long ago. They were mostly commiserating as a way to boost each other’s spirits almost a year into the pandemic. The friend has multiple underlying health conditions, so staying a safe distance from others has been paramount for her for many months. But she’s been vaccinated now and seems to have a bit of a spring in her step.

    The conversation turned to the stigma surrounding mental health struggles that was already slowly evaporating in society before the pandemic struck, as more people come to realize that no one enjoys perfect mental health and sometimes people simply need help, whether it’s talking to a professional or taking a pill to better balance your body’s out-of-whack chemical system.     

    “Everybody needs some help sometimes,” my wife said at one point during her phone chat with her friend, and that’s what stuck with me.

    Everybody, including animals, it would seem.

    Our 20-plus pound, seven-year-old cat that our sons rescued from a giant, gnarly bush in our neighborhood when he was maybe six weeks old basically shut down when the pup arrived. A big cat, he never stopped eating, but he was afraid to venture to some of his favorite water dishes in the house and I feared he was becoming dehydrated. I brought a dish of water to him on one of the many days he’d shoe-horned himself under the basement couch for hours on end and the amount he lapped up and the enthusiasm with which he did so alarmed me.

    When the vet heard this, he offered a potential remedy: Feline pheromones. They come in baby-food sized jars, in liquid form, and you screw a contraption onto the lid and plug them into a wall outlet. The liquid diffuses into the air and – Presto! – calms your teetering-on-the-edge cat.

    Each tiny jar costs around 20 bucks and lasts for a month. We were encouraged to buy one for the main floor and one for the basement. I was dubious, at best.

    Then, about 12 hours after we plugged both in, it happened. My wife and I were playing some music one evening while engaged in a series of intense, even heated games of smear (a card game) in the dining room, when our reborn beast of a cat jumped onto the table, meowed and then flopped over right on top the cards in the middle of the table. I scratched his neck and his purring seemed to make the whole table vibrate.

    Fast forward to today and we’ve ordered four more jars, enough to keep the cat sane for another 60 days. Is he hooked? A pheromone addict? Will he ever be able to relate to the dog, which now outweighs him by around 10 pounds, without altering his state of mind?

    There’s time to address those questions later. All we care about for the time being is that he hasn’t wedged himself under the basement couch since we first plugged those little jars in.

    Whether your stress is pandemic-inspired or puppy-induced, everybody needs some help sometimes.

Mike Christopherson, Crookston Times managing editor