I never had a pet growing up but most of my friends did. When my closest friends (twins) went on vacation I would take care of their beagle, Barney. Barney was a friendly, playful dog that was always happy to see me. We’d take long walks together, and I’d talk to him as we checked out every nook and cranny of our nearby woods. 

I used to pray my friends would go on more vacations.

It wasn’t until our son was 9 years old that we decided to adopt our first cat. Actually, he’d been pleading with us for a while. Living in a wooded area, our neighbors let their cat run outdoors, and told us disgusting stories about what “gifts” they would bring home for their owners to see. I envisioned the same.  

Eventually I realized I didn’t want our son growing up without knowing the unconditional love of a pet. So we went to our local animal shelter and let our son choose a kitten. 

And so our family’s journey with pets began. A few weeks later we adopted a second beautiful kitten.

(NOTE: This was one the hardest thing to do because adopting meant leaving others behind. Years later, when my son began volunteering at the shelter I’d wait in the parking lot to pick him up, unable to face the dozens of homeless beauties. I was extremely proud of him because he gave up his Sundays while in high school to clean cages, walk dogs, and feed and play with all of the animals.) 

A few years passed when a gorgeous gray and white cat began appearing by our window. It was easy for him to walk outside from window to window around our ranch-style house, pressing his nose into our screens and driving our two cats crazy. 

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I didn’t know what to do until one day a torrential downpour helped me decide. Already neutered he was either lost or neglected, and when no one claimed him he became ours. 

He was a third blessing.

As anyone who loves animals knows, adopting a pet from a shelter is not only a gift to them by providing them safety, but it’s also the promise that we’ll lovingly care for them forever. 

What do we get in return? Unconditional love. And so much more.

Several years ago we were getting ready to visit my in-laws in Florida, a yearly event that we look forward to. But my MS reared its ugly head and I was unable to go. I pleaded with my husband to go without me and, reluctantly, he did.

Alone for a week, I remained on the couch feeling lonely and a little sorry for myself. 

They say animals instinctively know when someone is sick, and they are right. Our beautiful gray and white cat sat by my side every day, leaving me only to eat and use the litter box. He was my constant companion, and a blessing.

Here are a few other ways pets are good for our health:

  • They provide love, comfort and companionship.
  • They can help to increase fitness, lower stress and bring happiness to their owners.
  • Pets provide entertainment and learning for all ages.
  • Pets can ward off depression, lower blood pressure, boost immunity and decrease anxiety.
  • They can improve your social life.

So what are you waiting for? Check out your nearest no-kill animal shelter or search Petfinder.com to adopt a pet today! 

 

Cathy Chester blogs at An Empowered Spirit, which won third prize in Healthline’s Best Health Blog Contest in 2014, was named #2 of the “Top 10 Social HealthMakers in MS” by Sharecare “ and received a nomination for the past 3 years as WEGO Health’s Best in Show Blog. She is a contributor for The Huffington Post as well as a blogger for MultipleSclerosis.net and Boomeon. Her work has appeared in numerous publications including Midlife Boulevard, BetterAfter50, Erma Bombecks’ Writers Circle, The Friendship Circle and Woman at Woodstock.