How Parkinson’s disease almost killed our cat

Learning the hard way that pets and Parkinson's don't always mix

Christine Scheer avatar

by Christine Scheer |

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My husband, John, and I got our cat Rosie from the animal shelter many years ago. She was a muted calico, the smallest and prettiest of all our indoor cats. What a sweetie she was. We called her my daemon, after the animals that were a physical manifestation of a human soul in the book “The Golden Compass.” No matter where I went, Rosie always ended up beside me.

Then I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2015. Rosie became my unofficial therapy animal; she’d sit on top of me, purring in time to my tremors. When I napped on the sofa in the afternoon, she’d stretch out on top of me and give me the stink eye when I woke up and wanted to move.

Rosie always sat at my feet while I prepared dinner. I’m a trained chef, and I use big knives. Suppertime is a flurry of activity in our house, and I’d usually be chopping frantically, talking, and trying not to step on Rosie.

Because of Parkinson’s, though, my grip strength isn’t what it used to be. One night, as I was chopping like a maniac, I lost my grip on the knife and watched it fly out of my hand, sail through the air, and soar right toward Rosie. My memory of this moment is like a terrible slow-motion movie.

Everything sped up as the knife landed. Rosie yowled and took off, leaving behind a small pile of fur. She came out of hiding the next day with a bald patch on her side, and the tip of her tail, where I presume the knife landed with the most force, promptly fell off.

Later I found the closet where she’d hidden. When I opened the door, it looked like a murder scene.

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The challenges multiply

As my Parkinson’s progressed, so did Rosie’s annoying behavior. After I had deep brain stimulation surgery in 2021, my daughters kindly took Rosie to their house so that her jumping on me wouldn’t interrupt my sleep. She stayed with them for about one glorious month.

Then one night, Rosie tucked under my feet while I was brushing my teeth. When I tried not to step on her, I lost my balance and fell. Her behavior was getting ridiculous. I didn’t need to add a fall hazard to my mix of Parkinson’s-related problems.

We had our friends over for dinner last New Year’s Eve. Rosie was acting strange and wouldn’t settle until, finally, she decided to lie under the Christmas tree. The four of us went into the other room to visit, and when I came back to check on her, Rosie had passed away, curled up under the tree.

Bittersweet: That’s how I feel. John says we have post-traumatic stress disorder after having a cat like Rosie because, as adorable as she was, she’d get into everything, interrupt our sleep, climb onto the counters, and try to eat our food. When we got out of bed in the morning, we had to watch where we stepped because she’d always leave a hairball (or worse) as a little gift. Sometimes, she’d treat us with one of her presents under John’s desk, under the coffee table, or — surprise! — in our slippers.

Our daughters are trying to talk us into getting another cat, but I think with Parkinson’s breathing down my neck, life will be easier without one.

Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.


Jane avatar


My husband has Parkinson’s and I have fibromyalgia. I realize your cat had a unique personality however if you found a cat that was mellow it would be a blessing. We have dogs and cats and they all have different personalities. They bring us joy and they know we have medical conditions and respond well. I just feel that your experience may make others with Parkinson’s and other conditions to shy away from cats.

Elizabeth Haller avatar

Elizabeth Haller

My very beautiful cat would often bite my hands. Several times I had to visit the doctor for an infected bite from her. I tried to stay away from her thinking she was just jealous of me as she was very fond of my husband. Shortly after she died, I was diagnosed with Parkinson's. I think the cat detected the tremors long before I recognized them. I think she reacted to the tremors by biting. Like you, I would like another cat, but it would be alot of extra work for me at this time.

Carole J Ebner avatar

Carole J Ebner

Christine, your story truly resonated with us. My husband has Parkinson's and, luckily, has not been tripped up by one of our cats. Our cat, Winston, sounds a lot like Rosie. He is an absolute joy, but does manage to trip me up occasionally. He jumps in my husband's lap several times a day for a long petting session. It's wonderful for both of them. I'm glad your dropped knife didn't do any significant damage to Rosie. That would have been hard for you to deal with. So sorry Rosie passed away, but she was in a good place and I'm sure she felt the love you had for her.

Fran Finney avatar

Fran Finney

Christine - your lovely essay made me cry. One more of the so many things to give up. . .

Thank you for sharing. Big hugs to you and your little daemon angel.

Alan MacKenzie avatar

Alan MacKenzie

Love your account of Rosie's antics, Christine. sounds like two moggies we have at the moment. One of them always lays on me when I nap in the arvo. She also wanders the halls and meows her loudest if she feels distant. If ever she isn't present, I simply look on my bed linens as sure enough, thar she be. The other cat attacks one's feet when the mood strikes it. Not good if oe is a Parkie with balance issues.

Alamo Vyann avatar

Alamo Vyann

If you are still able, please visit and or volunteer at pet rescues and animal sanctuaries. You'd be able to pet the animals in supported surroundings.


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