Aside from the fact that I have always had allergies to both cats and dogs I never really had much free time to devote to having a pet. I often noticed how people with pets seemed so happy always treating their mascots as part of the family but never fully understood this bond until recently.
My daughter has wanted a pet for years – one she could play and interact with. We have had our share of beta fish, turtles, rabbits, and even a pup for a short time. Unfortunately, both she and I are allergic to dogs so after several months of treating her contact dermatitis and being miserable with my allergies I decided to part ways with our cute pup which broke my heart and made me a very unpopular person in our home. Having to endure some wailing each time we drove by the vet’s office on our way home.
Having finally settled on notion of never becoming a pet owner again I gave in on my daughter’s birthday once more dreading flair up of my allergies. We adopted a tiny grey kitten which was only 4 pounds instantly reminding me of when my daughter was born weighing the exact same thing. It was love at first sight for all of us in the family but no one was more surprised than I to realize how much having this tiny little creature in my life not only lifted my spirits and amused me but his unconditional love has melted my heart. I can’t imagine not having him in our lives.
Although, it is the girl’s cat, I am the one that spends most time with him because I am home the most.
My biggest fear was that my allergies would worsen which they did initially but suddenly I realized that my allergies were acting up less each time which I found fascinating. In fact, it turn out that pets can actually lower risk of developing allergies and in fact may even strengthen our immune system – something I would be most happy to have in the midst of all my chronic illnesses.
The other benefit which I have discovered is the positive vibes and well-being feeling having my little one at home has created for not just me but all in the family. Life can be pretty stressful even more so when living with a chronic disease. The stresses can be felt and at times negatively impact those closest to the person who is sick. However, study show that children with pets had lower cortisol levels. Having lower stress is also important because PD patients can have anxiety as part of the spectrum of illness and struggle at times with blood pressure issues. Owning and caring for a pet (cat or dog) can also help decrease blood pressure.
Pets can also have a positive impact on our mental health particularly help combat depression so effective is this that many organizations have adopted pet therapy as an effective treatment for mental illnesses such as depression and loneliness.
Of course having someone else to lookout for gives you a sense of purpose and a reason to get up and move even when you don’t feel much like it. Plus, some have claimed that sleeping with your pet also helps to improve quality of sleep- a much needed thing in all of us with PD.
The one thing that I have found most fascinating is their intuition to know when something is off. My cat is as all cats’ plays and gets attention only when he needs it and wants it otherwise is off to himself somewhere but when I am not well he senses this somehow and does not leave my side day or night until I am better. Although, there is absolutely noting he can do to help having him physically standing watch is a most reassuring and comforting thing – it is as if you could see your own guardian angel standing watch saying I am here , you are not alone, we will get through this together.
So yes, I am a firm believer that all of us with a chronic illness should incorporate some type of pet therapy in our lives even if it’s by visiting an animal shelter often to play with the strays there. The love and healing you will receiving would be immeasurable compare to the time you give. If you can adopt an animal do so but keep in mind your strengths and condition realistically – we don’t want the care to be a burden but rather a benefit.
All rights reserved by Maria De Leon MD