a dog and cat in a field

How Pets Help With AS

I’ve always been a cat lover. We got our first cat when I was 5 years old, and I fell in love. Don’t get me wrong, I love all animals, but I’ve only ever had cats as pets. Pets are incredibly therapeutic for anyone, but I find they’re even more so therapeutic for those of us with chronic and mental illnesses.

My diagnosis

In the months leading up to my diagnosis, life was kind of a mess. I don’t think I could have gotten through it without my cat at the time, Bubby. Life was incredibly stressful and I was very down on myself. I thought I would never find out what was wrong with me, and that I would be in severe pain forever.

When I got diagnosed, life became a different kind of mess. Now that I knew I had AS, I had to read everything about it and learn what my new life would be like. It was an incredibly emotional time for me.

Having Bubby there to comfort me, nap with me and just be in the same room as me was just so helpful. We had developed a close bond while I was home and in pain all the time. We were inseparable. He would jump in bed with me and we would nap for hours. Having someone around all the time during that point in my life was so important. I honestly don’t know how I would have gotten through it without him.

Life with AS

Once the initial shock wore off, I knew I would have to change the way I lived my life completely. I had officially quit my job a few months before I got diagnosed, but now I knew that I wouldn't be able to work for the foreseeable future.

I started biologics, took up daily yoga, and started to make a conscious effort to eat healthier. We know that having routines helps us get through our days with ease. Having a pet to take care of just gives me more of a reason to get out of bed. They need food, water, and love. While I’m up feeding the cat, why not fix myself something to eat too? They’re a good reminder of what we need, too.

Unfortunately, Bubby passed away in June, and I was devastated. I felt like I had lost my sense of purpose, and my best friend. But everyone around me knew how much he meant to me, and how much he helped me get through the hardest times of my life. That’s why family and friends started suggested I get another cat because I truly needed it as a therapy animal.

Finding purpose again

At the end of July, I decided I was ready to adopt another cat. I looked around at shelters in the area, and a bit further away, and fell in love with a cat about a 40-minute drive away.

the author steff and her calico cat

Her name is Cora. She’s a 1-year-old Calico cat, who’s full of energy and always wants attention. She’s a goofball. Cora is everything I need in my life right now. I’ve never been the sole owner of a cat, so Cora is officially my first cat. It’s created a huge sense of responsibility in my life, something I feel like I lacked even with Bubby.

When I do yoga, she likes to lay on the mat with me and nap. She loves to meow at me to play with her, and boy does she love to play. She’s curious 24/7, so she definitely keeps me busy. I’ve fallen in love with her.

Do pets help?

YES! Pets, whether it be a dog, cat, bunny, horse, etc. are so therapeutic de-stressing, and loving. They’re always a good addition to your life. Bubby and Cora have helped me feel like I have a purpose, and that’s a gift I couldn’t appreciate more.

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