Am I a mystic or do I need a lot of medication?
August 3, 2015 7:53 AM   Subscribe

I've always been a skeptic, rock solid atheist and (in the loose definition of the word) empiricist. This year, before finding out I had a completely random but often fatal heart cyst, I began to hear my cat talk. Six months later, the cyst has been removed and we're.... still.... talking. Is there any way I'm not crazy? There have been some chance occurrences I can't explain.

I haven't told my doctors about this. Christ, I haven't told my friends, only my partner (who is the Mulder to my Scully, I guess). I began all this being open minded, but (paradoxically) as there's been more and more proof it might be real communication, I'm afraid I'm having psychotic symptoms.

It is all auditory. My cat, a rescue, tells me about her past life, voices her opinions about day to day matters like food and brushing, etc. It is internally consistent. It's not intrusive or upsetting. Much of it is totally prosaic. Nearly everything she "says" that I hear in my head is echoed in her behavior. (I mean, she's a cat and has a limited behavior palate? But still - it's never been wrong. When she announces she's going to bedroom, she does so. When she asks for water, she runs over to drink it and she's often resistent to drinking.)

She also became ill recently. She told me that there was a guy inside her right paw gnawing on her, another guy biting his way out her throat and hard things falling on her back haunches at night. The x-rays showed arthritis in her back, where she'd indicated things were falling on her and in her right paw. This was completely new. Also, her asthma (dormant for years) was flaring. Her throat was sore from panting.

There have been a bunch of other incredible coincidences; my partner has tested it as much as we can. She mentioned a fanciful place and we googled it - it was an actual place near the rescue we drove all the way out to the desert to get her from. That was entirely hair raising.

But... something in me isn't buying that I communicate with my cat, because that's not possible. I've been in a lot of bodily distress and I wonder if it's coming out in hallucinations. From what I know about auditory hallucinations, they're rarely formed, continuous and unobstrusive - they're usually scary as all hell or really abstract. These are totally quotidian - I've gained a talking room mate. None of my meds cause hallucinations. The heart cyst was not hurting me, either, and this began before I knew about it, so I don't think I can tie it to that.

Everything I read online about "animal communication" is total woo. But I can't ignore the reality based things that've issued from our talking. Is there any way I'm not crazy? Is there any scientific explanation for animal / human communication? Or is this a cut and dried auditory hallucination? If so, is it serious enough that I should seek help immediately? throwaway:
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (48 answers total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
I don't think you're crazy, but you yourself are saying this happened coincident with your heart cyst. Even though you think it has nothing to do with that, you still made the connection between hearing your cat talking, and this medical event.

So why not print out your question, just as you asked it to us, and show it to your doctor? You have nothing to lose.
posted by tel3path at 7:57 AM on August 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

It's not possible. It seems that you're having auditory hallucinations. They can be taken care of, but you do have to tell someone.
posted by xingcat at 7:59 AM on August 3, 2015 [14 favorites]

Is there any scientific explanation for animal / human communication?

Certainly there is a great deal of human/animal communication that goes on every day between a pet and their owner. I can tell when my cats want food, and when they need to be scritched, and when they are not feeling well. Conversely, they can tell when I am mad at them for knocking over a glass of water, and when I need a snuggle because I am feeling a little down. We can communicate all sorts of things without the need for any direct verbal or mental communication, and I suspect you are subconsciously leaning on this sort of non-verbal communication to inform what I have to assume are auditory hallucinations. There is no scientific evidence for any sort of telepathy, despite being actively searched for for hundreds of years. You should discuss this with your doctor right away.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:04 AM on August 3, 2015 [40 favorites]

Also, I just want to reassure you that you don't have to hide this. I have friends and relatives who have had periods where they've had this sort of thing (some sort of hallucination, brought on by any number of factors), and one of the things that's pretty consistent is the feeling that this is shameful or something you need to hide from the greater world. Your clarity about what is happening is great, so please do take care of yourself and let some professionals know that you're in this situation.
posted by xingcat at 8:07 AM on August 3, 2015 [20 favorites]

Go talk to a doctor about this. You're not crazy, but it seems like you're having auditory hallucinations, and that means you should go talk to a doctor.

I was reading about auditory hallucinations lately (just for fun, not as a medical professional), and your assumption that auditory hallucinations are always mean, incoherent voices is incorrect. I've never read about someone's cat talking to them, but I've definitely read about just ordinary voices talking to people about ordinary things, and being cheerful or supportive.
posted by colfax at 8:10 AM on August 3, 2015 [10 favorites]

If I were your partner, I would be very worried about your brain health. I encourage you to talk to a doctor -- your GP is a good place to start.
posted by demiurge at 8:10 AM on August 3, 2015 [3 favorites]

From what I know about auditory hallucinations, they're rarely formed, continuous and unobstrusive - they're usually scary as all hell or really abstract.

As someone who assesses and treats people with auditory hallucinations, this is not true. A lot of our clients have voices that aren't particularly scary and just keep up a continuous commentary on what the client's doing. I would definitely work with your doctors on figuring out what's going on.
posted by jaguar at 8:10 AM on August 3, 2015 [32 favorites]

I don't think you are a mystic. I think you are an unusually perceptive and empathetic and loving pet owner. But you should probably talk to your doctor :-).

Also I would think this is so cool if one of my friends was going through this and I would be constantly asking them to translate for me.
posted by bq at 8:11 AM on August 3, 2015 [8 favorites]

And given that this started with a medical condition, I would seek help from people with "MD" after their names (which may include psychiatrists as necessary), at least until you have a diagnosis.
posted by jaguar at 8:12 AM on August 3, 2015 [3 favorites]

Mental changes after general anesthesia are a thing for some people. Talk to your doctor.
posted by blue suede stockings at 8:13 AM on August 3, 2015 [5 favorites]

Nearly everything she "says" that I hear in my head is echoed in her behavior.

This suggests that the hallucinations are based on your interpretation of her behaviour. In any case, they certainly aren't real (even though they can be very convincing), but that doesn't mean they're anything shameful that needs to be hidden. However, it does imply that there is/may be another issue or condition that needs to be investigated and resolved. You should print this question out and bring it to your doctor. Best of luck!
posted by Drexen at 8:13 AM on August 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

Definitely talk to your doctor about this.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 8:17 AM on August 3, 2015

Hey, it's okay. You're not crazy. Auditory hallucinations are a medical problem, in your brain, and sometimes general anesthesia knocks things around. The fact that you're an empiricist by nature and are seeking out confirmation of what you're "hearing" from your cat, and confirming it through empirical means, indicates that you've still got that going for you. That's why it's important to go see your doctor.

There are some things to keep in mind when you go. Most importantly, you should frame it as having auditory hallucinations, not that you're "hearing voices." Don't give your doctor a shortcut to crazy when you're not. Frame this as troubling but not disturbing, and make sure you are very clear that your hallucinations are not compelling you to do anything, harmful or otherwise.
posted by juniperesque at 8:18 AM on August 3, 2015 [34 favorites]

As an open-minded science type, when I've dealt with woo, I ask myself "What is the worst thing that could happen if I believe whichever version of reality turns out to be untrue?"

The worst thing that could happen if you believe you are having auditory hallucinations and you're not, is that you will get some tests and end up with a clean bill of health. For someone else, I'd say there might be a risk to the cat , but as her conversations don't upset you, I don't think that's the case. Overall risk: pretty low.

The worst thing that could happen if you believe your cat is really talking to you, and she's not, is that these hallucinations may get darker or more frightening, or that they may indicate a serious medical problem that you do not address with your doctor. Overall risk: pretty high.

If it's embarrassing to discuss the details with your doc, you could still tell them that you have been experiencing some non-distressing ambient auditory hallucinations that you want to get checked out.

And give that cat some scritches. In whatever reality is true, she's helping you.
posted by tchemgrrl at 8:22 AM on August 3, 2015 [50 favorites]

It may be that this cool new ability sticks around for a while and then slowly fades away, with no negative consequences. But for your cat and your partner's sake, on the off-chance that it gets scary down the line, you should talk to a doctor and get a handle on what to do in that situation. It may very likely be that no change is necessary now, only if things get scary.
posted by samthemander at 8:22 AM on August 3, 2015 [3 favorites]

I am the most science-minded science person who ever science'd... a true Scully if ever there was one. HOWEVER... I also believe there is, to paraphrase the bard, lots of shit in heaven and earth that we have NO IDEA ABOUT WHATSOEVER, and that we may not be able to fully understand or measure given our current capabilities.

So. That being said.

I'd go to a doc to rule out any medical reason for what's happening - there are plenty of things that cause auditory hallucinations that you do NOT wanna mess with. I'd also tell some trusted friends/family... if this is a medical issue, and if it gets worse, you do want a collective of people close to you to take care of you, guide you, and prevent you from ever veering off the rails.

That is the bare-minimum of due diligence you need to do, for your own well-being and your partner's. Once you've done that - and assuming this new ability doesn't change in any alarming ways - I would personally just assume that you have been given the gift of stumbling on one of those weird, amazing, no-one's-gonna-believe-it-but-I-know-it's-true things that DO exist, but that humans do not have a way to adequately explain/analyze yet. I have little faith in ANYthing - but I have faith such things exist, and who I am to say that such things WOULDN'T manifest in such a way? Enjoy your kitty, enjoy having a life that has gone slightly outside the bounds of the normal and expected.
posted by julthumbscrew at 8:29 AM on August 3, 2015 [16 favorites]

I know someone who, instead of hearing the normal fan noise, hears angelic choirs singing whenever someone turns on a fan. He resisted seeing someone about it for years, but also lived with the fear that something was REALLY wrong with him and if he went to see someone, he'd have to deal with the "REALLY wrong". He eventually had to see a psychiatrist for other issues (complications after a long hospitalization), admitted his secret, and the conversation went like this:

Doc: "Is it obtrusive, does it bother you? Does it keep you from functioning?"
Person: "Well, it bothers me because I'm pretty sure other people don't hear angelic choruses singing when a fan is running."
Doc: "Any other aspect bother you?"
Person: "No, that's about it"

Doc assesses several other things, then:
"Other than the fan item, I don't think you're having any issues of concern. I would say just enjoy the singing in the fans, and let me know if something else comes up. Auditory hallucinations are pretty common, all things considered."

The point to this story: auditory hallucinations are relatively common, and worth speaking to an MD about, just to reassure you about any fears you may be having in relation to this.
posted by RogueTech at 8:29 AM on August 3, 2015 [14 favorites]

I'm an atheist, but I also believe in "the mystical world," so I'm going to take a different tack here. There is so much about the universe, the body, and the brain that we still don't understand -- which leaves a ton of room for things that might seem mystical or supernatural to our primitive knowledge of how things really work. (For example, something like mirror-touch synesthesia, discussed recently on the blue; it sounds utterly delusional but there are tangible differences here supported by MRI studies.) As part of my work, I regularly interview scientists and write about their research, and one of the biggest things that emerges in every conversation is how much is still unknown, particularly about human biology. Which, of course, is what makes the work exciting.

So, I'm not going to rule out some kind of actual communication going on with your cat. I would say what's most plausible is that you're subconsciously picking up on body language and other physical cues without really being aware of that, and fitting it to a running narrative inside your brain (the cat talking) in order to make sense of it. But honestly, who knows? You sound pretty lucid about the situation and I believe you when you say there are tangible things here that are inexplicable.

I say all this because it seems like you're sort of engaging in this all-or-nothing thinking where either your cat is really talking to you in her own voice, or else you're completely losing it and slipping into a delusional world. I don't think it's that cut and dried. But your anxiety about the second possibility is leading you to keep this a secret, for fear of being locked in a padded room or something.

Because the bottom line is, this is a new thing that's happening to you, and you should seek medical advice, no matter what's causing it. Something has changed in your brain, and that's usually a warning sign.

So whether you're imagining/hearing things, or tapping into a particularly empathetic region of the brain that you didn't access before, or ... something else which is absolutely real but we don't know about yet... there is something going on. And for the sake of yourself and your partner, you should get that checked out by a doctor.
posted by the turtle's teeth at 8:38 AM on August 3, 2015 [15 favorites]

No need to turn this into a problem.

In general it is wise and cautious and not close-minded and/or problematic to see one's doctor when a new symptom arises immediately after surgery for a serious and life-threatening condition.
posted by poffin boffin at 8:39 AM on August 3, 2015 [17 favorites]

Go to your doctor immediately. Your surgery may have created a clot that has travelled to your brain, causing the hallucinations. You are in serious danger.
posted by myselfasme at 8:40 AM on August 3, 2015 [4 favorites]

It sounds like the voices started before the surgery.
posted by jaguar at 8:55 AM on August 3, 2015

I think that the most likely explanation is one that's been mentioned a couple of times: you are picking up on subtle behavioral clues, and your brain is creating the narrative. For example, you could have seen her favoring the arthritic paw and not registered it consciously. You could have seen a sign for the fanciful place near the cat rescue when you went out there. There are reasonable connections for each example you gave.

You should still go to the doctor, because any ongoing auditory hallucination should be checked out to make sure it is not being caused by something serious. Go to your regular doctor. They may send you to a specialist, or do some tests or scans. That's ok! You just want to rule out any serious physical causes.
posted by bedhead at 8:57 AM on August 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

I strongly disagree with those who say you have nothing to lose by going to a doctor. I'm not saying you shouldn't go to a doctor, necessarily, just be very careful. Unfortunately I know of several people who went to a doctor in a situation like yours (non-distressing, harmless auditory hallucinations) and got carelessly slapped with a schizophrenia or bipolar label and put on a cocktail of heavy-duty antipsychotics with horrible (sometimes disabling) side-effects. Be particularly cautious if you're in the United States, which uses these drugs at a much higher rate than the rest of the developed world.

I'd recommend "The Hearing Voices Network" to connect with other people who experience auditory hallucinations and get some support. Good luck to you!
posted by horizons at 8:58 AM on August 3, 2015 [3 favorites]

As a one-off experience I wouldn't be worried at all (I have had a completely subjective experience such as this). Ongoing? I'd want to rule out something serious. You seem completely reasonable... what's the harm in talking to your doctor?
posted by brownrd at 9:01 AM on August 3, 2015

Look, if physical causes (like a brain tumor or cyst or clot) are ruled out, and you do get a diagnosis of something like schizophrenia, then you can decide that you're ok with things as-is and don't want to take medications. But please, please, please seek medical care to at least rule out any physical causes. That's the appropriate Scully-level next-step testing.
posted by jaguar at 9:02 AM on August 3, 2015 [14 favorites]

This is awesome. May I lead with that?

I think that, given the onset and peculiarity of this experience, were I you I would potentially be seeing a number of doctors: a psych, a neurologist, and an endocrinologist are three just off the top of my head. Doctors are not Mentats, they do not have access to all medical information across disciplines and times, and it's unfair to expect that of them.

It's unclear how likely it is that, as myselfasme suggests, your consistent, benign-yet-robust auditory hallucinations are potentially the product of a blood clot in your brain (even given the impossible cause-and-effect issue here), but that is one of the things I would want to find out as quickly as I could, along with cancer, chemical imbalances, etc.

In my opinion, provided your experience doesn't escalate (your cat tells you that you have to empty your bank account and live on the street, etc etc), it would only be a problem if it is the product of another dangerous issue (see above). I agree with the suggestions you've received about being wary of mental diagnoses and drug regimens based solely on this experience. This is potentially the symptom of a problem, but it isn't a problem of it's own (by your own assessment and that of your life-human) and shouldn't be treated that way.

Otherwise, enjoy! Whether you have recently become more attuned to the invisible world or your brain is overtly making sense of previously ignored sensory data (body language, etc), it's both cool and useful. How often do abilities like that just fall into your lap?
posted by Poppa Bear at 9:06 AM on August 3, 2015 [4 favorites]

First, I definitely agree with those who recommend talking to an MD, since this is new and comes amidst serious health issues. That being said, the question I always ask myself (and previous mental health care professionals have asked me) in these situations is:

Does what you're experiencing negatively impact your daily life?

When the answer is no, which it usually is for me, the advice has always been to not worry about it. The rare times the answer has been yes, my health care people have done tests and/or prescribed meds if appropriate. Sometimes that helps; sometimes it doesn't and I learn to live with whatever the thing is. About twenty years ago I went through a period where I saw people as human-shaped colors and had to concentrate on being able to see the actual person. It was both fascinating and annoying, but it didn't really make daily functioning more difficult. I haven't had that issue in years; whether that's due to seizure med changes or just getting older or whatever, I don't know. I don't miss that ... ability, but I wouldn't freak out if it started again tomorrow.

On preview, pretty much what Poppa Bear said.
posted by worldswalker at 9:21 AM on August 3, 2015

I don't think you're psychotic, but I would worry that you are in a possibly gently manic state that if not addressed would have the potential to lead to a psychotic break where you are no longer lucid enough to entertain the possibility that you do not have a talking cat. (You do not have a talking cat, of course.)

I don't think you need an ER visit right this second, but it is definitely a thing to address with a physician (and I agree with recommendations to press for testing by different specialists, because there are so many possible causes here) as soon as possible. It is terrific that you're thinking this through in a lucid fashion. It would be tragic to let it go undiagnosed and untreated and have it turn into a substantial physical or mental illness that would involve a difficult recovery.
posted by kmennie at 9:36 AM on August 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

Your cat has been talking to you for over 6 months and you haven't seen a doctor yet?! Yes, you're crazy. It could be completely benign - in which case yay, but it could be serious - the kind of serious where the longer you leave it the more serious it is.

Nothing you've described the cat telling you couldn't be explained by subconscious cues - even the place near where you picked her up from. We absorb so much more information than we're consciously aware of. Unless your cat tells you something that is 100% verifiable that you could not possibly have known about then its fair to assume that your cat is not actually communicating with you and your brain is just misfiring.

It could be nothing, it could be serious, it could be stress plus too much coffee. You wont know until you see a doctor and if they just send you away with anti-psychotics and a mental health diagnosis, find a new doctor and don't even fill the prescription. A proper diagnosis of serious mental health issues takes multiple assessments by a real psychiatrist. But if you are mentally ill, wouldn't you want to know? You haven't seen anyone about it yet, if it does get more serious/darker, would you go? Or could the illness be what's stopping you taking the very reasonable step of seeing a doctor to rule out anything serious?
posted by missmagenta at 9:37 AM on August 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

"When she announces she's going to bedroom, she does so."

It is absolutely possible to read this kind of thing from body language of a pet. The Spouse frequently asks me to stop reading the pets' minds--for example, I can tell you with a high degree of accuracy what they want when they stand up (outside, water, play, petting, etc), before they even start walking in any direction. I can also often tell you where they hurt and how serious it is, if they're just begging or genuinely hungry, etc.

I'm just seeing patterns and variations, really; "if pet tilts head this way it means he heard something and wants to go outside and check on it," or "if pet stretches that way he is going to go to his bed for a nap," and so on. This isn't particularly special, of course. Many pet owners can read their pets' body language very well. It's just an example, that this happens without supernatural intervention.

So there is that. Knowing what your cat is about to do is not unshakable evidence that the cat is intentionally communicating. It's possible to know these things from unconscious evaluation of their body language.
posted by galadriel at 9:41 AM on August 3, 2015 [3 favorites]

I would absolutely talk to a doctor, because you don't want to keep worrying about it. Here's what could happen:

(1) It has a scary dangerous medical cause and you need treatment right away. In which case, you definitely will be glad you got checked out.

(2) It turns out to be caused by something benign, something a medical professional can keep an eye on without necessarily interfering; you get to decide whether to treat it or continue living with it, but you have a context to move forward in case things change. You can just keep on keeping on while both you and your partner know what to look for in terms of possible worrying escalation. You have a doctor who's looking out for you, and someone who knows your history who you can go to easily in case things change. If you aren't a danger to yourself or others, you're not compelled to take medication or anything else. As an example, temporal lobe epilepsy sometimes causes people to have intense religious experiences, and they can think about it as a medical condition or as a way for god to access their meat-based brains, it doesn't matter, those are just framing devices for us to understand the world. But it sure helps to have a medical understanding of it as well as whatever framing device you choose.

Look, honestly, you're living my childhood dream. If you want to contextualize this as a mystical experience, you're allowed to do so. I personally think it's your brain interpreting all the myriad clues a cat gives you in all her beautiful subtle intelligent ways, and putting words to it, which is awesome and gives you this incredibly emotionally visceral way to interact with the super cool creature in your life. That's its own kind of magical thing, frankly! You're having a very cool experience that almost no one gets to have; I don't think it's beyond the reach of science or based on some fundamentally unknown power, personally, but I do still find it magical! But do get checked out, make sure it's nothing scary; once you know for sure, you can enjoy it and frame it however you want, while wisely keeping an eye out for things that might not be so magical and adorable.
posted by you're a kitty! at 10:11 AM on August 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

It is hard to talk about this kind of thing using terms like crazy or mystic is difficult because those kind of terms carry all sorts of baggage. The real question (or at least a real question) is whether this atypical phenomena interferes with your activities of daily living. If it doesn't interfere at all, it's not really a problem and so enjoy. If it does, then its something for which you should find someone to help you with.

It seems that it interferes a little, if for no other reason than you are asking here about it. so you are at a minimum worried. Also, one of the hallmarks of certain psychiatric issues is that the person suffering from them cannot always see how they affect their lives. One of the nice thing you have going for you is that you have a partner that is aware of what is going one and can act as a touchstone for how well you are managing things. I would make sure to request that my partner pay attention and be very blunt in letting you know if things seem to be escalating poorly.

I would also seriously consider seeing an experienced psychologist to help you evaluate. A professional that is equipped in helping you determine whether this is an isolated phenomena or whether there are other things going on that are hurting your ability to function.

Finally, this is leaving out the question of whether you are dealing with something purely physical, which I do not even pretend to be able to talk about. This would be another reason to see someone, they would be more skilled in knowing whether what you are experiencing is linked to something medical.
posted by rtimmel at 10:32 AM on August 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

This sounds like something that is simultaneously enjoyable, fascinating, unnerving, and downright scary. You're right: it's not your cat's voice in your head. You could certainly be picking up on her subtle body language cues and habits and translating them into a human voice, though. Maybe the arthritis had her walking just a little bit more stiffly, and you didn't consciously notice it but it registered in your brain all the same.

It's definitely worth seeing a doctor to rule out anything weird going on in your brain. It's important to take care of your brain - you need it and you only get one!

This is a little odd, but: have you asked the cat what she thinks about all this? You're not going to get that voice to say "No, I'm just an auditory hallucination," and you can't assume that the answer will be correct or useful, but it might give you a little more insight. However, I don't think I'd recommend this unless you've got a doctor appointment lined up within 24 hours, on the off chance that the voice starts getting weirder.
posted by Metroid Baby at 10:46 AM on August 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

So I am neuro-atypical and you can have a totally fine sane(ish) life even with way more voices! So good news on that front.

That said I do advise you to see a doctor as everyone pretty much mentioned. I would present it with a reminder about your surgery, be really clear it started with your cyst, and be rational and honest. It's not likely that framed that way there will be any kind of immediate leap to some mental health diagnosis that will haunt you forever.

If there's no physical cause then you can decide if you want to pursue it further or not. If you do my one piece of advice is that I found (in the Canadian system) that keeping my therapy private worked well in that only the very broadest details made it over to my family doctor when it was time for an actual diagnosis. I paid for it myself during that exploration phase which was pricey but for me it meant I came to terms with what I was experiencing without having to deal with which label would satisfy insurers/the province. If you have the means, I highly recommend that.

I have to say that before I went through all that, I was pretty intolerant of "crazy stuff" and I feel like it has improved me as a person to humbly accept that I experience things on a daily basis that many people including right here on Metafilter consider basically ludicrous attention-getting devices. At the same time I don't define myself as "the crazy person"...I encourage you to be you, who hears her cat, not The Person Who Hears Cats. Although if other people's cats would talk to you, I bet that's a lucrative side-business.

In my life I've heard so much stuff about people's inner the nicest possible way I will say I think yours sounds pretty nice and benign. That said yeah, get it checked out.
posted by warriorqueen at 10:47 AM on August 3, 2015 [3 favorites]

Cool, if you actually are communicating with your cat, you could get a million dollars. You just need to prove it. A double blind study would be best, but to start, maybe just a non-blind test. Someone needs to give the cat some information that you do not have, and then the cat communicates to you what that information was. It would have to be repeatable to be very statistically significant.
Maybe use the classic Zener cards. Have your partner (or someone else) generate 10 random numbers, and use those to determine which cards to use.

Without you being anywhere near the kitchen, your partner puts down the card, and a treat on it. Partner brings in the cat, tells it to pay attention to the card and enjoy the treat. Partner then puts the card away and leaves you two alone. Now you can ask the cat which card it saw. Write it down twice, give one copy to partner.
Repeat 9 more times, then partner checks answers.

I'm guessing that 8/10 correct would warrant more tests. Less than that, either you only have a medical condition, or your cat is a lying jerk, or most likely both.
posted by Sophont at 10:55 AM on August 3, 2015 [22 favorites]

This is a pretty gentle and benign auditory hallucination, which means probably your doctor will just want to check for causes and then let it be and keep an eye on it.

I was on a medication for a while that caused me the occasional auditory hallucination -- always the same thing, an arpeggiated major chord on a hammer-struck stringed instrument (such as a dulcimer). It was occasionally startling, because it was unpredictable, but it was so pretty! I told my doctor, who asked me a bunch of questions, did a neurological exam, and ruled it, "Just a nerve misfiring in your brain, keep an eye out for [various symptoms that suggest a problem], and come back if it changes types or begins to feel menacing or frightening, or if it starts interfering with your ability to work or socialize. Otherwise as long as it's not upsetting you, you can just ignore it, it's more common than most people realizing."

I tell you about this just so you know, auditory hallucinations can be common side-effects of of many procedures, conditions, and medications. They can also be indicative of mental illness, but aren't necessarily. It's definitely something you can talk to your doctors about without shame or fear. And while I wasn't so keen when I was actually HAVING auditory hallucinations to talk about them with people in general, you can see I'm not particularly fussed about it now. People usually say, "Huh, what a crazy side effect. Brains, amirite?"
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:57 AM on August 3, 2015 [6 favorites]

Your question reminded me of a different question from a few years ago.

This person was, like you, hearing really specific sounds in only one specific context, and was very aware of the fact that this might or might not be 'real', but was otherwise feeling pretty much fine.

They turned out to be in very real and immediate medical danger, and once they got treatment they were very grateful that they did so.
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:02 AM on August 3, 2015

An examination to make sure that there aren't any important neurological issues is a really good idea. And it's good that you're talking to your partner about this; they'll be in a good position to tell if something is going south.

After that, though, unless you're disturbed by what's going on, I don't think there's any particular need to make this fit into a modern ontology. Sitting with it, watching it, testing it sounds like a unique opportunity to explore a dimension of life that many people don't ever experience in this way.

As for what's possible... we have our models of the world. A lot of them are pretty good and very useful. They're nevertheless limited and there are large chunks of how things work beyond those limits that are unseen. Some people call acknowledging that mysticism or religion or whatever, I think it's actually a pretty intellectual reckoning (and a necessary first step to noticing things that might help us refine our models).

My guess is that brains do a lot of things we're not aware of. Maybe this your brain is just constructing a voice around the cat's behavior, but it sounds like your observations go beyond those limits. Maybe there is genuinely something that can pass between people and cats and other living things that live together and care for one another that we don't normally process consciously, but for some reason, your brain does at the moment. Maybe there's something else that makes this a marginal and special case.
posted by weston at 12:24 PM on August 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

I don't know if you're a mystic or not, but the fact that you don't know either means you're not crazy. Brains and brain lesions can do lots of very weird things, though, and you should definitely talk to your doctor and a neurologist about what's happening. Ruling that out, though, your skeptical empiric experience is that something, literally and in multiple senses, fantastic is happening. If other problems are ruled out, or you can't do anything about them, then I'd love to have such an extended opportunity to do impossible things myself.

Just to share a similar experience, for entirely known-to-me reasons, for several weeks when I was about 20, I experienced voices that seemed to come from a specific corner of my apartment. I heard them nowhere but my apartment, and they mostly told me where to find things when I'd lost things like a pencil or phone or whatever, which was helpful and sort of cool. Two or three times they shouted my name, startling me, which was sort of uncool of them.

So, not to minimize your experience or the things it could be a symptom of, all else being equal this sounds like a pretty cool thing to experience.

One thing you don't mention, and I don't want to invade your email with mere curiosity, but... Does the cat reply to you when you ask it stuff? I don't think the answer to this would indicate much of anything, as I'm pretty sure a cat may well simply ignore you speaking to it even if it could talk back.
posted by cmoj at 12:50 PM on August 3, 2015 [3 favorites]

I think that something you should watch out for is the possibility that, as a skeptical empiricist, you attempt some serious double-blind tests on what you're experiencing - and you discover that no, your cat isn't really talking to you, it's just a hallucination. This could make you sad.
posted by doctor tough love at 4:30 PM on August 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

I think another important question to ask that has been overlooked is that if it's all true, then out of all the billions of people in the world, why did you get selected and how did you get a cat that talks to you.
posted by gt2 at 9:46 PM on August 3, 2015

Look into this, yes.

Have a healthy skepticism of psychiatrists on such matters. Once when I was inpatient for depression, I made the mistake of trying to describe something I experience. In my own case, if there is ongoing white noise (the heater running, a fan, etc.), I will often think I hear someone at my door, my phone ringing, etc. Once I brought that up to a dr as an overly honest answer to a question, it was very difficult. Which mostly means they were doing their job, but it was still frustrating.

I do think one thing that's perhaps going on is that this could have started in some organic fashion, but noticing whatever it was caused your brain to expand on this.

I know a woman who started hearing from a voice in her head that said she was going to die. She got that checked out and found she had a brain tumor.

Also, it would probably be a good idea to pay attention to how different things affect how much your cat talks. Does she say more when you are tired? Have taken medication? Etc.
posted by mermaidcafe at 10:49 PM on August 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm a psych nurse at an acute/crisis type inpatient facility. Auditory hallucinations of this type are common. You should tell your doctor so you can see what's causing it.

I've had patients who after careful treatment went from the type of negative auditory hallucination you first think of to ones of helpful voices giving them advice. Hearing animals, singing and music... These are all common and not what concerns us here because we get the patients who have already been medically screened to rule out the kind of physiological causes people are talking about above.

Talk to your doctor. Find out what's going on.
posted by RainyJay at 12:48 AM on August 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

It's your fuckin' brain, man. It literally doesn't get any worse than your brain.

At the moment, your brain is seriously entertaining the possibility that it has a psychic connection with a fucking cat. See a doctor, now.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 4:05 AM on August 4, 2015

Go to a doctor.

If the cat isn't actually talking to you, they might be able to find an underlying problem.

If the cat is actually talking to you (which seems unlikely, but you never know), then get some proper scientists to look into it. If you're an empiricist, you can't argue with the facts.
posted by Ned G at 9:35 AM on August 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

For a while I was having visual and auditory hallucinations secondary to depression. You need to talk to someone; you know that cats do not speak.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:24 AM on August 4, 2015

I think you need to approach this like a scientist. You sound like someone who appreciates the scientific point of view. It might also help to reduce the emotional aspect by mentally removing yourself.

Pretend that you are presented with Person X, who says that they are hearing their cat talk. Okay. How do you prove or disprove this?

First, I imagine, you'd take a complete medical history. You'd check for hallucinations or psychosis. Is the cyst medically relevant? (When I say "you" I mean "outsource to a qualified medical practitioner".)

Secondly, you'd try to verify the conversations with the cat. Can this be proved? I like the idea above of testing. What could be attributed to a good relationship with the cat? What can't be explained by that? The place your cat mentioned is a good example. You said the cat talks about her past life. Does she mention specifics that couldn't be known otherwise? Or is it general chit chat that could apply to most cats?

Keep an open mind and try to figure it out rationally.

Good luck.
posted by tworedshoes at 3:35 PM on August 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

I've had a lot of experiences like the one you're going through. For a long time I struggled with feeling like people were invading my mind and putting thoughts and feelings into it. That has been the most long-lasting and persistent one, and I struggle with it to some extent to this day. I've also felt like God was talking to me (She's a black woman, btw. I'm making a conscious choice to call her *God* instead of *Goddess*, because *Goddess* implies a male counterpart). I've also felt like plants were talking to me, especially young plants (they're bratty teenagers, and they're sometimes mischevious, but they mean well.) They're on-going, and they form a consistent worldview. Sometimes they're negative (like when people are invading my mind), sometimes positive (like when I'm talking to God), and sometimes neutral (like the plants).

Every single time it feels very real, and all the objective evidence seems to support the truth of them. But once I'm not experiencing them anymore (they come and go over time), it's just as obvious that they're delusions, and suddenly all the objective evidence supports that instead.

I don't pretend to know whether these experiences are real or not, but I think it's likely that they're not, and that they're just products of my brain. I think that because I can control them to some extent by changing my physical habits. Certain drugs help: coffee, caffeinated tea, and marijuana. Others seem to make them worse over time: soda, tobacco, sleeping pills, and when I was younger marijuana triggered them too (not sure why that changed as I got older). Eating lots of meat, dairy, and fat makes them better, and vegetarian food seems to make them worse (which is a real drag, because I would prefer to be vegetarian, and have tried several times). Beans and vegetables seem to make them worse, even if I eat them with meat. Cutting out sugar helps a lot. Getting plenty of calcium help too.

What worries me about your situation is that this started very suddenly. I've been going through this for most of my life, and they're clearly genetic in origin (my Dad is schizophrenic). If they're pleasant or interesting I can chose to just enjoy them without worry, because I have no reason to think that it's a result of some serious health problem. In your case however they hit you out of nowhere. That makes me worry that some damage has been done to your brain.

My advice to you would be to not commit to either believing them or disbelieving them, but instead just observe and enjoy them. You'll never really know whether this is really happening or not. In the end it doesn't matter, because whether they're real or a delusion, you still have to rely on your own judgement. I mean, even if you really are talking to your cat, it's not like she's a genius who's always right, so you still have to think for yourself and make your own decisions.

And like most everyone else on here, I advise you to see a physician to make sure there's no health issue involved.
posted by sam_harms at 6:23 PM on August 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

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