Dog, cat, chinchilla, hamster, ferret, fish, bearded dragon, parakeet, pig, monkey – whatever your choice, pets really make us feel good, better even, as we live with chronic illness and disability. Not only can they provide physical assistance, they also warm our hearts and make living with MS a bit easier.
I am reminded of this as the winter temperatures drop and my cat, Hans, now cuddles more. (Yes, even in California, it gets cold. It dropped to the high 30’s the other night, which is cold for us, really, really cold. Brrrr!). There is nothing better than a good snuggle with Hans to warm me up. On the days I do not feel well, Hans just seems to pick up on this and cuddles with me even more, even closer. How wonderful this is as he distracts me from the pain I feel, the burning in my legs, the extreme fatigue I battle.
And, there is more to it than just the snuggles. Having pets in our lives has a wide range of benefits. They help us cope, lift us from feelings of loneliness and depression and get us outside for a bit of sunshine and exercise.
Top 7 benefits of having pets in our MS life:
1. Pets keep us company. Living with a companion animal can help ease feelings of isolation. Having a buddy by your side can make such a big difference in minimizing the feelings of loneliness. Even if the conversation is only one way…
2. Pets can help us fight depression. Taking care of pets (walking them, grooming them, petting them, playing with them) takes you out of yourself and helps you feel better. Our pets’ love is unconditional so, good day or bad, they have a lot to give us. Well, that is unless your name is Hans who, when he doesn’t get the treats he persistently begs for in the morning, may not be spreading the love quite as far.
3. Pets give us a sense of support and pleasure. Our life with MS should focus more on the good parts, not the un-fun stuff, right? Having pets makes us feel good. They’re cute and they’re sweet and they’re funny and they’re snuggly. All good stuff that makes living with MS a bit more bearable.
4. Pets get us outside when we might not otherwise. When we walk Spot, we sometimes meet others along the way, stopping for conversation, watching dogs do the funny things they do. It’s a great social outlet. Plus, there’s the added benefit of soaking some of that sun vitamin!
5. Pets calm us and relieve our anxiety. This is a big one for me as I am slightly neurotic. Hans is chill so he keeps me chill, not an easy feat. Om.
7. Pets help us improve our physical fitness. After all, exercise is important for MSers and, taking your dog for short walks or tossing their favorite toy in the backyard, helps keep us moving. This includes basic stretching. I can’t tell you how many times Hans watches us at home, with keen interest and curiosity, as we stretch or do some yoga. Eventually, he gets right on the floor with us to do a bit of stretching himself. Kitty Yoga. Hilarious!
Our animals really enhance our lives, don’t they? And, they help us a lot during difficult times, during those painful moments with MS. Nudging their wet noses against us for a pet or cuddling with us after an injection or keeping us company while we hang out in bed battling fatigue. These pet moments make MS matter less and make life with MS a little bit easier.
How about you? Tell us about your pet and how your life is better because of your pet. I’m sure you have a story you’d love to share and we’d love to hear about the healing power of your pets.