Anyone who has ever arrived home to the warm greeting of a companion animal knows how wonderful it is. There is a reason we refer to our cats, dogs, birds, hamsters, etc as “companion animals.” They keep us company; sometimes they fill a void, other times they just enhance our lives with more love and dedication than can be found from any human relationship. I got a quote from Star Trek‘s Jean-Luc Picard, in reference to a horse: “It seems that some creatures have the capacity to fill spaces we never knew were empty.” Even in Star Trek they know the power of animals
We have a special bond with our pets. They make our lives better. Thousands of people around the would would attest to the benefits of snuggling with a cat or walking with your cat. Research has found plenty of evidence showing the benefits of therapy dogs and cats on hospital patients, residents of retirement homes, helping children learn. How do pets do this? By listening, being there, and being non-judgmental. We all need someone who isn’t going to judge us sometimes.
Sometimes all we need is someone non-judgemental to listen to us and show us we are loved. This is especially the case for those suffering from mental illness such as Depression and Anxiety. I know because I have suffered from both for many years.
There were times when the Depression and Anxiety got the worst of me, when I found it hard to find a reason to get up in the morning. My cats were the reason to get up in the morning. Feeding them, cleaning up after them, providing for them all was what got me up in the morning. Coming home to play with them and snuggle them was what got me through the day. What was the most amazing of all was how Crash always seemed to know when I was at my lowest. There was one night I found myself curled in the fetal position on the floor of my room bawling uncontrollably. I hurt so much, and couldn’t find anything to hold on to to make it better. Somehow Crash sensed this and demanded to be let into my room. Once in he demanded I give him attention. He rubbed on me, and I knew I was loved. I don’t remember if he snuggled next to me or just required petting, whatever he did though, it was enough to know he was there. He saved me that night.
Over the years my Depression and Anxiety has gotten better. I am sure I would not have sought help had it not been for my cats. They showed me that I was loved, even when I felt alone. They accepted me when it felt everyone else was judging me. They reminded me that I had purpose, even if it was only to care for them and make their lives worthwhile. I made that commitment to them and I am determined to follow through on it, even if I have made a few mistakes along the way.
I am mostly in control of my thoughts and moods these days ,there are still times when my Depression and Anxiety get the better of me. I have been having a hard time with life lately, and combined with the dreary gray weather, my gloomy thoughts got the better of me. Nothing seemed to help me get out of my thoughts was caring for my ferals. Little Black and Mama were ever so excited to see me today. Just working around their house, changing the linens and cleaning their living areas on one of the warmer days we’ve had, was enough to get me out of my brain and gloomy thoughts. Knowing I was part of something larger than myself. Animals are great at that, helping us feel like we are involved in something greater than ourselves. My cats, especially my ferals, have also helped remind me of the simple joys and beauty that can be found in life.
I write this not for you to feel sorry for me, but to help bring light to mental health. There is a huge stigma on mental illness of all types and it is almost taboo to even discuss mental health. If I can help even one person by writing this post, then good. If I can lessen the stigma for one family, or help one person feel less alone then I will be happy. I also want to write to recognize my cats, and all animals, for helping me and so many others throughout the world.
Science has backed up many of my personal experiences, finding that pets help to ease feelings of lonliness, boost mood and give people a purpose in life. Check it out in the following articles:
Mental Health Assistance Dogs – This is so great, especially for those with PTSD or Aspergers, a service dog has to be a Godsend!