I recently spoke to a fellow fibromyalgia advisor and we were speaking about having pets while having a chronic illness. We both had different perspectives on the matter and I thought it would be worth exploring in my next blog post.
I have two amazing fluffy kitty cats, Dexter and Linus that are my emotional support animals. I love them as if they were my real kids and they return that love tenfold. In a past blog post I mentioned that when I was suicidal and unable to cope with my illness, my worry for my cats future was the only reason I held on. The idea of them being separated and scared to death in a shelter broke my heart. When I saved them from the shelter I committed to being their forever home and it wasn’t something I took lightly. They in turn have saved my life many times over.
Being a single woman struggling with depression and anxiety due to chronic illness they are my main source emotional support. They know when I’m hurting, physically or emotionally, and are there to hold and snuggle 24/7. If I’m sitting or lying down there will always be a purring cat on my lap. Purring has been scientifically proven to be healing and calming. So my cats are in fact one of my favorite medications. Despite their age they can still be just as rambunctious as kittens and are quite silly. They bring such joy to my life and I laugh at their antics daily. It’s like viewing adorable cat videos all day long. It’s good for the soul. They are also incredibly clean, well-behaved, and obedient.
Enough gushing about my babies! There are however down sides to owning pets, especially when you have a chronic illness. They are a lot of work and can cost a lot of money. There is food and litter to buy and costly vet visits. Plus all the pet supplies like beds, toys, collars, leashes, etc. You have to be able to feed them several times a day, clean up the litter or yard, train them, exercise them, and clean up their messes. Fur will be ingrained in everything you own. There are also allergies to consider. Many people are allergic to cats and dogs. There are hypoallergenic dogs and cats, but you still may need to take allergy medicine daily. Taking care of you should always be a priority. If you are not able to care for a pet and yourself then not having one is the best decision.
I had a dog a few years ago. I thought having a dog would help me be more active. After a year of struggling to keep up with her I had to rehome her. I loved her dearly, but I was not physically capable of giving her the attention and care she needed. My cats are easy going and fairly independent, my dog was not. Despite months of training she would still have accidents daily and thought everything in the house was a chew toy. She required daily walks and trips to the dog park. She loved to run, but most days I could barely walk around the block. I badly sprained my ankle because she pulled me off a curb when out for a walk. I was exhausted and frustrated trying to keep up with her and I could tell she was frustrated too. She was just not suited to being a support animal and I was sacrificing my wellbeing to care for her.
If you have a dog that you plan to have as an emotional support animal then the dog needs to be well trained. I’ve read many articles lately and there has been some recent backlash against emotional support animals due to lack of training. There have been a lot of incidents of dogs barking incessantly and being aggressive on flights. Landlords are required to waive pet deposits for support animals and sometimes the animals damage the property due to lack of training and supervision. As a former property manager myself I know it has caused many landlords to have a negative outlook on emotional support animals and their owners. If they push hard enough they may eventually be able to change the laws which will put everyone who has an emotional support animal at risk of losing their rights. This goes for cats as well to a degree. Cats usually stay at home, but they can be just as destructive as dogs if they are unhappy (scratching, marking, accidents, throwing up, etc.) Despite your illness you are still 100% responsible for your pet.
If you are interested in getting a pet discuss it with your doctors first. If you have a mental health disorder like depression or anxiety talk to your mental health provider. They might consider writing you a prescription for an emotional support animal. This will allow you to utilize several benefits, like waiver of pet deposit and pet rent, flight pet travel fees waived, etc. Picking the right pet with the right personality is important when you have a chronic illness. Easy going, calm, affectionate, mature, and obedient are top qualities to look for. If you suffer migraines or a sleep disorder having an animal who barks or meows a lot is not going to work. If you have physical limitations then you shouldn’t get an active dog, puppy, or kitten. Picking the right pet with the right disposition is critical. I’ve had cats my entire life so I’ve gotten really good at picking them out and have a formula I use to select the ideal cat. (If you are in the Portland area I’d be happy to help you pick out a good support cat.) I have not had the best of luck with dog picking apparently!
Pets can be a wonderful addition to your life, but they can also be a hindrance. If you are thinking of getting a pet and have a chronic illness, but are still unsure, I’d be happy to help you. Just schedule a free consultation with me and we can talk about your situation and come up with a plan that’s right for you.