Our Furry Friends – The Positive Health Benefits of Pets

I am an animal lover. I am not particularly fond of every creature of the animal kingdom; mind you, but most of them. The more I am forced to cope with my disorder in my everyday life the more convinced I am of the effectiveness of pets on my daily mental health. They certainly don’t alleviate the manic depression symptoms I suffer from, but they do manage to help take the sting away from some of my crises and breakdowns. It can be so encouraging to be able to turn to a source of unconditional affection and love. Yes, I know that there are downsides to having pets but I firmly believe in my case especially, the pros outweigh the cons.

I am the lucky owner of two cats. I am continually astounded by how they are able to lick away my tears and purr my blues away. One little nudge of a tiny wet nose upon your cheek can mean a lot when you feel completely alone in a world of confusing emotions and bewildering thoughts. The gentle caress of a paw across the back of your hand can be just the right thing to bring you back to reality once again, if only for the moment. Just knowing that a little life in a furry jumpsuit loves you even when you feel unlovable, can squeeze a small ounce of comfort into an otherwise numbed soul.

I have a big and very rotund black cat that could be mistaken for a small bear. He is just as neurotic as I am and always serves as a source of humor, sadly at his own expense. He takes exception to just about everything and has more phobias than I do. My other feline companion is a petite white eternal kitten. She is a constant source of affection. I can often coax her to talk to me in a series of meows and various other kitty noises. Sometimes I can’t get her to keep her opinions to herself. She is quite the chatterbox. I often surprise myself when I realize how much these little creatures have become a part of my life and my affections.

One characteristic I particularly adore about my cats is that they don’t care whether I storm around the house with raging abandon. They don’t really mind if I am a blithering mess of tears and sobs. In fact, they feel it necessary to reach out and meow some comforting words. Whatever mood I happen to be stuck on is quickly obliged and I never receive a questioning glance. They never disagree with my presumptions or reply with a glib statement of fact of advice.

My cats love me whether I look like death warmed over or look even remotely human. I often roam my house in various degrees of undress. Sometimes I am able to force myself into jeans and a T-shirt; other times, I am in a pair of flannel pajamas. They don’t care; as a matter of fact I think they prefer me without make-up and all those get-ups required in public. If I am sick and haven’t showered in a few days they still voluntarily cuddle with me, unlike some members of my family. My cats are attentive and loyal subjects especially when I am very ill. They sleep by my side and follow me around the house to ensure that I am all right.

There are times when I am haunted by the horrid deeds I have done and words I have said. I am chased throughout my soul by the ghosts of my past. When I am in this dogged state there is one thing that brings me comfort, the fact that my cats don’t care what I have done, whether good or bad, they accept me as I am. They are determinedly loyal, no matter how I conduct myself. I find they encourage me to be a better person, to treat others with the same unconditional acceptance that they show me.

These little creatures quite frequently bring me to a sense of contentment that makes me smile and more often than not even elicit from me a giggle or two. Then there are the times when they can truly make you seethe. But, I feel this is good; at least they serve as a distraction no matter what emotions they evoke. You cannot obsess about your illness if there are lively, furry forces at play, whether they are naughty or not.

Caring for all sorts of creatures can help you stay active and be responsible for their care and upkeep. You won’t be as likely to give up on life if you know “someone” needs you (the same rule applies to children as well). Dogs can help you get out of the house. They will put you on one end of a leash and take you for walks. Birds will sing and depending on the breed, talk your face off. Fish can be a source of distraction; I find an aquarium can possess the same fascination as a roaring fire in a fireplace.

There is something comforting and healing about the warmth a breathing little creature can bring when they are snuggled on your lap, especially when you are alone, both physically and emotionally. You feel just a little bit less lonely when they are around. I find I can deal with stress easier as a pet owner because I know I can find soothing release in interacting with my cats.
If you don’t have a pet or cannot have one because of your life situation, here are a few pointers:

  • Go to the park and feed the birds (or squirrels; which ever shows up first).
  • Baby-sit other people’s pets.
  • Go to a riding stable and take a trail ride.
  • Most apartments will allow fish.
  • Get a birdfeeder.
  • Go to the zoo and visit the petting zoo section.
  • Volunteer at the Humane Society or at an animal shelter.
  • Join a bird watching society.

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