my dilute tortoiseshell cat sitting in a sink and looking off to the side
Carmella, my dilute tortoiseshell kitty.

I had a bunch of cats growing up. They were all outdoor cats and suffered short lives. It was tragic, but there was nothing I could do to provide or care for them as a kid. It broke my heart, but I loved having them. They were my favorite animal. I had all kinds of toys and stuffed animals that were cats. I was pretty easy to buy for as a kid.

When I became an adult, I always wanted to get a pet, but for various reasons I put it off and didn’t get one.

Until last year.

I got Carmella when she was about 12 weeks old.

my dilute tortoiseshell kitten Carmella when I first got her. She's sitting on my lap and looking right at me.

She challenged me a lot with her hyperactive behavior, vocal personality, and curiosity (which led to some destructive behavior both then and now). But she was also a lot of fun, and she made me happy.

I didn’t realize how much she helped my mental health though. Here’s how she helped me, and I think this could be said of any pets!

My friend Brandy, at Live Mentally Well, also posted about how pets can improve your mental health. Check out her post, too!

Pets provide companionship

The obvious reason to get a pet is that you want a buddy! My cat has definitely made bad days better, and helped put a smile on my face when I hadn’t smiled all day. It’s great to have someone there to greet you every day, happy to see you, and ready to curl up with you at any moment. Her purrs of contentment when I’m giving her affection or holding her make my heart soar, and it can melt even the hardest of hearts. When I’m having bad days or even slipping back into depression, she’s there to pick up my spirits just a little and remind me I’m not alone.

Pets give you a sense of responsibility

Having to take care of something or someone else forces you to rise to the occasion. It’s not for your sake that you do it, but for theirs.

Having this responsibility is good for your mental health because it helps you from falling into a rut or withdrawing completely from civilization. I know when I’m feeling like isolating from everyone or I’m starting to feel bad about myself or my life, I will neglect household chores, I will ignore everyone, I will let it all go to hell. But having Carmella breaks me out of that cycle.

A pet gives you a purpose when you feel you don’t have one. I might be feeling hopeless or lost when it comes to my career or life’s direction, but I know for sure Carmella needs to be fed and given plenty of attention and routine checkups. I know I can’t leave her alone for too long because she’s a living creature who needs care! Responsibility is something that gives me a sense of duty and helps me keep going on days I don’t want to keep going.

Pets provide you with a routine

Routine is essential for mental health care. Your own personal treatment and self-care are important, but general routines for your day and your home are equally important. I find that having a routine with my chores and household tasks also helps me stave off depression, restless and empty feelings, or just general ickiness and muck that I tend to fall into sometimes.

With a pet, not only do you have a sense of responsibility in caring for this creature, but you create a routine with them. I feed Carmella at specific times of the day. I play with her at various points in the evening, especially right before bed. I make sure to give her plenty of attention. I take her out to the porch frequently. We do this on the weekend, too. It like having the stability of this routine throughout the week.

I’d love to see pictures of your pets! Do you think they help with your mental health?

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