I am very upfront about my disability. I do so not to draw attention to myself, but to give hope to others with similar conditions. My goal is to be role model for other people with similar struggles. I want to show just how much a disabled person is able to accomplish. In my case my disability is bipolar disorder, dissociative identity disorder, schizophrenia, and anxiety.
This past week has been a difficult one for me. I had my condition seemingly well in hand, and then you know what hit the fan. I became dizzy and couldn’t think straight and had to lay down.
As I lay there in emotional agony, my cat Sweet Baboo came to check on me. She sensed something was wrong and curled up next to me, positioning her body to spoon with me. It was exactly the type of contact I needed to ground me.
Pets are typically not allowed in the building in which I live. However, a few years ago my therapist who was aware of my struggles when I’m alone, suggested I get a cat. After I explained my building doesn’t allow pets, she offered to write a letter to my landlord to request that I be allowed to have a therapy cat. I figured it couldn’t hurt to ask. Much to my delight, my landlord agreed to let me have one.
You might wonder what a therapy cat is and what they do.
Therapy cats offer a level of comfort to people battling physical or emotional health issues. According to Catological.com, therapy cats can be beneficial to the elderly and physically disabled, they can help curb behavioral problems in teens and children, and they can sooth emotional distress in people of all ages.
Although dogs and horses are the two primarily recognized types of therapy animals, cats are making a name for themselves in the therapy arena as well. Per Catsnap.org, therapy cats are useful in retirement homes, nursing homes, schools, hospitals, hospices, and other human service care facilities.
According to AnimalHealthFoundation.net, the benefits of owning a therapy cat include decreased stress, lower blood pressure, lower risk of heart attacks, alleviation of depression, and less risk of stroke.
When I went to the animal shelter to pick out a cat, Sweet Baboo chose me. As soon as I walked into the room, she crawled in my arms and started purring. I knew she was the one for me.
My quality of life has gone up significantly since I brought Sweet Baboo home. She sits on my lap while I write on the computer, she greets me at the door when I come home, she watches movies and tv with me, she curls up by my head when I go to bed, and she is always by my feet when I wake up in the morning. Most importantly, she is there for me when I am feeling “off.”
Not every cat has the personality and disposition to be a therapy animal, just as not every human is right for a career as a psychologist. My eldest son and his mother have a cat that never cuddles or seeks affection the way Sweet Baboo does. I feel lucky to have Sweet Baboo. She makes a difference in my life.
If you have emotional struggles, whether they are diagnosed or not, I invite you consider the benefits of owning a therapy animal. Both dogs and cats can make wonderful therapy animals if you pick the right one that has a natural disposition to be affectionate.
At the same time, be sure you are ready for the responsibilities of pet ownership. It’s a two-way street, you have to care for your pet just as they take care of you. If you are unsure about the responsibilities of pet ownership, I suggest volunteering at an animal shelter. It won’t take long for you to know if owning a therapy animal is the right choice for you. I’m proof positive that they can make a difference.
Peace. Love. Trust.
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