You've Got a Friend in Me
In the great dog versus cat debate, I have always been an outspoken member of team dog. Maybe that has a lot to do with the fact that I have had a dog since the day I was born, and therefore don’t really know how to play with or handle a cat. They tend not to appreciate an obnoxious person running towards them for a rough-and-tumble pet session, but I just don't know any other way! Cats also tend to pee on me. I have no idea why this is, but it has become a running joke in my family.
Becoming a cat person
All of that changed in June when a family friend had a litter of kittens abandoned in her backyard. She sent out a desperate plea for adoptive families for the little felines, and even I couldn’t resist the little balls of fur. I was also in a particularly vulnerable state seeing as I was currently experiencing my longest stretch of being pet-free ever. My fiancé and I decided to take one of the little girls in, and it was love at first deworming. We’ve been a happy little family now for a few months and I can already tell that we are going to have a good life together. I never realized how much of a positive impact having a little kitten running around would have on my health and happiness.
Pets can help reduce stress
The first noticeable effect has been a sharp decline in work productivity! Every time I carve out some time to write articles she plops herself on my keyboard, adding lines like “khlyrktylugt.i” or “tdrsrejstyf”. In fact, right now I’m typing this with one finger as I hold her in my arms in a desperate attempt to keep her off the keys. For me, this is good. I’m a bit of a workaholic, and any minute that I’m not doing things for grad school, I’m working, writing, cleaning the house, or volunteering myself for committees. She makes me stop and play, which in turn is keeping me from piling on too much stress, and is ultimately keeping me healthier. In addition to being playful, she is also incredibly snuggly. On a bad day, her laser pointer induced antics make me laugh, and her cuddles warm my heart. She truly is a wonderful little friend and distraction. My dogs always knew when I wasn't feeling well and would lay on the couch with me all day if I needed them to, but my cat still expects me to get up and play. In my opinion, both are helpful in their own way. The real key for me is the companionship.
Building a better support system
I couldn’t ask for a better human support system, but a pet can be that cherry on top. And it’s not just me, studies have actually shown the positive health benefits of pets. Pets can lower blood pressure (when they aren’t destroying things and elevating it), decrease cholesterol levels, ease anxiety, fight depression, encourage you to exercise more, and help avoid isolation.
An investment in your health
People with multiple sclerosis can also greatly benefit from having service dogs. According to the National MS Society, service dogs can help with balance, opening and closing doors, retrieving items, alerting their owners to sounds, pulling wheelchairs, and responding to the needs of their owners when they become anxious or fatigued. A pet may be a great investment in your health if you are able to provide the time, care, and love that they require!
Do you have a special pet in your life? What impact have they had on your health?
How well do people around you understand MS?