The last few days have been very stressful for me. Although my newly reestablished habits have helped me to get a handle on the worst of my anxiety, I am feeling an increased amount of stress. Today we got some bad news and as often happens I felt the edge of my depression gain strength.
As the problems pile up, I’ve found myself seeking out the company of my cat more and more. He is an important part of my coping strategy.
I’m a cat person, but the value of a pet can apply equally to whatever your preference is. Cat, dog, snake, ostrich, whatever. Okay, maybe not an alligator. Little hard to get affection from something that wants to eat you for lunch.
The ways pets help are varied.
Set Schedule and Emotional Responsibility
When I’m in the darkest levels of depression, one of the most important things the cat provides me with is responsibility. I might not be willing or able to take care of myself when depression is kicking my ass, but I will not let the cat suffer. The need to feed him breakfast had dragged my ass out of bed on many an awful day. Once you are up, it is easier to stay up.
Most pets get fed more than once a day and some require things like walks daily. That set schedule can help not only your depression but also anxiety. Being able to anchor your day onto things you know will happen can provide a calming effect.
Love and Affection
Most animals provide their owners with love and affection. Though this takes different forms depending on the animal.
Your dog will worship you. He is happy to see you and the wagging tail and eager leaps tell you that every day. Licked faces and raucous hugs abound.
Your cat will allow you to worship it. He will graciously permit you time to pet and scratch him in his preferred locations and at his preferred pressure. This royal stance does not mean he does not love you. It is no coincidence that he is where you are the majority of the time. His silent accepting presence can be a bonus if you are an introvert like me. We enjoy being quiet together.
Calming Presence or Enforced Exercise
You need to look at your own preferences and personality to determine what would help you the most. The calming quiet presence of a cat who enjoys spending long quality hours watching television or getting pet while your read or the enforced outdoor exercise of a dog who will drag you out to release some endorphins and get some Vitamin D producing sunshine every single day.
Personally, I hate the outdoors so a dog and I would make each other miserable. But cats can be kind of assholes. If you are someone who will be offended by that (rather than finding it adorable as I do) then a cat is not your best choice.
Besides giving you something to love and care for, a pet also gives you improved mental health. Appreciate the myriad of benefits our small friends can provide us.