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They say thanks 🙂
Let me introduce you to my animal family:
I have eleven animals. Yep, you read that right: Eleven.
- Two cats: Icaro & Lilly
- Two dogs: Fry & Mia
- Two parrots: Bubby & Laura
- Three water turtles: Venus, Jupiter & Una
- A tortoise: Ragnar
- A blind albino rat: Hannibal, the newest member of our family
Each of them has their own unique personality, and each came to us in their own special way. Yes, it’s a lot of pets, but don’t worry: I’m able to care for all of them and I work from home, so everyone gets plenty of attention.
Growing up, I always loved animals. I grew up with my mom’s cat Nikki, and when Nikki passed away my mom had a cat named Chloe. We had a dog once for a short time, but besides that our family wasn’t too big on pets. So I spent most of my childhood catching frogs, lizards, caterpillars and whatever other critters I could find and claim as pets.
Unfortunately I wasn’t too bright as a kid and these poor critters always died pretty quickly. I had no idea how to take care of them and I certainly didn’t have the internet to teach me back then.
Luckily for the critters under my care nowadays, the internet is a thing, and I am no longer a dumb kid. And this time I didn’t catch any of them and force them to live with me…which as an adult I realize was a super barbaric thing for me to do to those poor animals.
I’m sure you’ve seen the “who rescued who?” bumper sticker before.
It’s a bit cheesy, but let’s be real. That bumper sticker is so true. Every single one of my animals has come to my rescue on more than one occasion. My struggle with mental health would undoubtedly be a thousand times harder if I didn’t have them in my life.
All those times I was crying uncontrollably and my dogs forced themselves onto my lap, licking the tears off my face until my crying turned to laughter.
Those times I couldn’t sleep because my anxiety was through the roof, and my cats came and laid on-top of me, their purring somehow vibrating the anxiety right out of my chest.
Or all the times I was simply feeling off, in a bad mood or just sad in general… and watching my animals play together or do something silly brought a smile to my face or even turned my whole day around.
This isn’t unique to me…this is an experience commonly shared by people who live with mental illness. Even if they just have one pet and not…eleven of them…
Don’t take my word for it.
Look at what these prestigious smart people have said about it:
According to a study published about 30 years ago, there are measurable changes that happen in a person’s body when they pet a friendly dog:
Their blood pressure goes down, their heart rate slows, breathing becomes more regular, and muscle tension relaxes.
All of which are known signs of reduced stress. The study was conducted by Psychologist Alan Beck of Purdue University and psychiatrist Aaron Katcher of the University of Pennsylvania, and it was the first time research was done on pets and how they relate to mental health.
There are a ton of ways pets can help us out with our mental wellbeing.
These are the five ways they’ve helped me the most:
1. They help me build and keep up with healthy habits.
It’s important that I develop and maintain a set routine in order to care for them properly. This includes feeding them, taking them outside, cleaning their habitats, etc. Having a basic daily routine gives me a foundation to build other healthy habits onto.
For example: Every day I feed the cats and clean their litter. Their food and litter is in the same room as my parrots. So I’ll go ahead and feed the parrots, sweep the bird seed and cat litter off the floor, and while I’m doing that I’ll take some extra time to play some music and dance with the birds.
They love dancing to music. This brings them a lot of joy, allows me to get some light exercise in and never fails to put me in a positive mood. It’s a healthy habit I’ve been able to keep up with because it’s built into my daily routine of cleaning their room and feeding them.
2. They help with my anxiety.
This goes for anxiety in general, but specifically they help me with social anxiety. They give me something to talk about and share with others, and when I have company I can always play with my pets when I’m feeling uneasy.
Even if it’s not my pets, really anybody’s pets can help with anxiety. When I’m at someone else’s house and start to feel uncomfortable, I usually head straight for their resident fur-ball and plop myself next to them until I feel better.
3. They provide truly unconditional love
One of the most amazing and special things about animals is their ability to love you, even when you don’t feel capable of loving yourself. They don’t care that you’re an awkward conversationalist. They don’t care that you forgot to shower and are hoping Febreeze will do the trick, and they don’t care if you hang out in your PJs all day. They just…love you. And that’s it.
4. They make me feel needed and give me a sense of purpose
Knowing that their life literally depends on me gives me an enormous sense of purpose. I’m needed. And appreciated. Eleven little critters depend on me for survival. And not only that… they also look to me to provide them with moments of joy, and moments of attention and adoration. Which I gladly give, because they give it so freely to me.
5. They show me how to calm the hell down
This goes especially for my cat Icaro. We call him the Zen Master because he’s the master of chill. Nothing phases him. You could probably stomp your feet on the ground right in front of his face and his expression would be unchanged. We actually used to wonder if maybe he was deaf or…not all there? But it turns out he’s just a secret Zen Master.
Animals in general are typically pretty zen. Okay, full disclosure: both my dogs are terrible examples of this. But a lot of animals are good examples of zen and they can teach us by example how to chilllll out. Which is a lesson I need on a daily basis. My little Icaro is basically my guru. When I feel like I’m crawling out of my skin, I can look at him sitting there in his perfect calm and remember what it looks like to not be freaking out.
What about you?
- How do your pets help you with your mental health?
- Do you regularly seek out the resident fur-ball when visiting a friend?
Let me know in the comments!
Until Next Time,
Keep Calm and Grow On