Surveys and studies have shown that pets help improve the mental health of their owners. We live in a day and age where most people consider their pets to be apart of their family and not just an animal that they own.
As many people know, I have a cat named Chaff and a dog named Zeke.
We adopted Chaff back in 2014 from the Humane Society of Southern Arizona. He was a tiny kitten and we had said goodbye to our senior kitty, BooBoo, about three months before. During the three months without BooBoo, there was definitely a hole in my life missing and I knew I needed another fur-child to fill it. I wanted that companionship and something to take care of. Nothing would ever replace BooBoo, but whatever animal we got would also be apart of our family.
We adopted Zeke in 2017 from San Antonio R.O.C.K.S. He was rescued from euthanasia. We saw his picture online and knew that was our dog. His puppy-hood was not easy because he had a host of health issues and almost died. Still, Zeke came into our life at the perfect time because we had just moved somewhere where I didn’t know anyone and I needed something to keep me busy. Why not adopt a puppy and train it? He kept my days busy, for sure!
Both Chaff and Zeke have helped my mental health in quite a few ways. Ultimately, their companionship and love have gotten me through the bad days.
Getting Me Out of Bed
Having something to get out of bed and feed has helped me a lot with actually getting out of bed myself. Chaff has a gravity feeder, but obviously Zeke needs to be fed twice per day. I had to physically get out of bed to feed him during a time when I honestly never wanted to leave my bed. Once I was out of bed, I didn’t get back in it. Sometimes I would migrate to the couch, but I never got back into bed.
Chaff is also the perfect alarm. There have been so many times when my alarm would go off, I’d press the snooze button, and then suddenly there is a cat on my chest.
Both of my animals have comforted me many times in the past. I am not sure what it is about animals being in-tune with their humans’ emotions, but it is simply amazing.
I remember when Michael deployed for seven months, so it was just me and Chaff at home. He knew I was lonely and he was my comfort during that time. I won’t lie, there were tons of times that I would cry just because I missed my husband and Chaff would find his way into my lap, making sure I knew I wasn’t alone.
There have also been plenty of times since we’ve adopted Zeke that he has responded to my panic attacks or just when I’ve been upset. He often will sit on me and let me hug him when this is happening. He’s been known to lick my tears away, too.
Both of my animals are pros at comforting me, no matter how I am feeling!
Making Me Laugh
Sometimes, for me, laughter really is the best medicine. The funniest creatures I know are Chaff and Zeke, and they are so good at making me laugh! Chaff will chase any toy, bug, or “red dot.” He will even jump in the air and do the infamous butt wiggle. Zeke loves to chase shadows, run around like a mad man, and squeak toys in my face. Sometimes I think he does that to remind me to not take things so seriously. He loves to bring people his toys as gifts because it makes them happy and it also encourages people to play with him. Playing with him always turns into smiles and laughter!
Getting Me Out of the House
Before we got Zeke, I really would only leave the house to go to work or run errands. After getting Zeke, I knew that he would need exercise. Zeke would definitely get me out of the house, to go on walks or to the dog park. On top of that, he encouraged me to socialize. The great thing about that is I also had something to talk about with other dog owners… my dog!
I hate to think about how my mental health would be without my animals. I know that some people think that I’m “obsessed” with them and perhaps I am… but they are literally my family and have done amazing things for me. I love my boys and I hope they know that!
I wear a lot of hats: NASM Certified Personal Trainer, Weight Loss Specialist, and Fitness Nutrition Specialist. A writer with a B.A. in English and Professional Writing. A fur mom and a wife. A mental health advocate and a septic shock survivor. An Airman and an athlete. I live in South Florida and am in love with the ocean. People can typically find me either in the gym or at home, writing or reading.