The healing power of pets

Opinions_ Pets 2
Images by Angela Espinoza.

What a pet can do for your mental health

By Angela Espinoza, Arts Editor

Up until June of last year, I had never had a pet before—at least, not one that wasn’t a hamster. Inside a blue cardboard box with air holes was a scruffy little kitten, soon to be named Nibbler. In no time at all, Nibbler became an honourary Espinoza, and almost one year later, my family and I can’t imagine our lives without her.

Whether it’s a little rabbit or a giant dog, eventually they’re going to bond with their owner. Sure, they’re going to form their own little quirks and “personalities,” but pets pick their mothers-of-sorts based on who most of their interactions are with. For Nibbler, despite technically having five owners, she spends most of her time with me, so obviously we have the strongest connection.

How far this connection goes is the big question. I’ve found that if I’m at my wits end and I’m crying a lot, my cat will crawl all over me and meow until I stop—that’s a big deal. I don’t imagine all pets do that specifically, but a pet that shares a bond with you will at some point react to specific emotions.

Another thing to note is that just having another sentient entity around can do wonders for someone’s mental health in general. How animal companions can keep people happy is a subject that’s been researched for years, and because of this research, it’s widely known that having a pet around can lift up the spirits of everyone, from fragile seniors to people with depression.

When you’re in a position where it’s almost impossible to stay positive, a pet’s company really can save the day. If for no other reason, walking through the door after a miserable day only to have a dog lick your face or a cat circle your leg is instantly uplifting. Always remember that just because a pet can’t “love” doesn’t mean they don’t recognize or aren’t attached to you.

Not everybody wants or needs a pet, but if you do and you know you’re allergic, don’t let that stop you. It’s important to find out what about an animal you’re allergic to; it can be anything from a specific dander (animal dandruff) to a specific fur—either way, find a pet that works for you! I can honestly say when it’s time to go to bed and fall asleep, having Nibbler curl up beside me is, thus far, the best feeling in the world. That’s not just because she’s my cat, it’s because in the short year we’ve had together, my cat has found little ways to brighten up my day, even if they’ve been completely unintentional, and those little moments have done wonders for my previously negative attitude towards life. Now let’s do each other a favour and not question the horrible scars she’s left behind on my arms from playtime.