It is a well-known fact that animals are wonderful companions for human beings. In fact, over 60% of all American households have some sort of a pet. People living with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) may find that owning a pet, such as a cat, can bring a great deal of joy and comfort while coping with the condition.
Cats are suitable pet companions for several reasons, including their ability to improve your physical and mental health.
Physical – Since there are many individuals with RA who have mobility issues, it can be rather problematic to exercise or even walk for that matter. However, studies show that pets, such as cats, provide a sense of meaning and dependability. Taking your cat out for a walk even to the backyard can lead to a boost in your energy levels and help you to tackle problems such as anxiety and depression. Plus, cats are very low-maintenance, especially compared to dogs. So, if you're having a particularly rough day, you don't have to worry as much about your feline friend.
Mental – Research shows that over 40% of individuals with RA experience problems such as depression, isolation, and loneliness. Such problems are also associated with increased tiredness, pain, and physical disability. Studies suggest that having a cat to care for may contribute to increased mental health during difficult times.
“RA is associated with chronic pain which can be all-consuming, especially if severe. Pain can lead to other problems, such as depression, loneliness, and isolation.The aforementioned cat traits allow your pet to distract you. It really is hard to remain focused on pain while your cat is providing you with a heavy dose of silliness. It is also difficult to feel lonely when your cat is by your side purring. Cats really do make a difference. Your cat’s actions compensate for much of the bad stuff associated with RA. Not totally, of course, but enough to help” wrote Carol Eustice in her article called ‘Cats Are Great Companions for People With Rheumatoid Arthritis’.
Other reasons as to why cats make great companions if you have RA are that they are:
- Independent - Cats are easy to care for, as they tend to take care of themselves. They simply require you to give them food and clean out their litter box. They are thought to be the most independent of all common house pets.
- Silly - Cats are always doing silly things and they are entertaining to watch while they play. It is their silliness that can help boost your mood.
- Playful – Cats are extremely playful and when you spend time playing your cat, you can’t help but kick back and relax.
- Soft and cuddly – Cats are truly therapeutic as they are so soft to the touch and they love to cuddle.
- Lovable – Cats offer love without any limitations and you can’t help but love them back just the same.
- Loyal – Cats think of themselves as the head of the household. However, at the same time, they look up to you, their owner, and they are extremely loyal.
- Alert – Cats will warn you of any suspicious noise that they hear by lifting up in an alert way.
- Supportive and non-judgmental - Cats provide unconditional support during hard times and they will never change their opinion of you. They do not judge. Period.
- Excellent listeners – Cats are excellent listeners. They make eye contact as if they are trying to understand what you are saying. This, in turn, makes you feel as if you have drawn them into your world.
- Excellent company – With your cat by your side, purring and wanting to cuddle, it can be rather hard to feel lonely.
Owning a cat is good for your health
Owning a pet can be good for your heart. One particular study that that over a period of 10 years, cat owners were 30% less likely of having a heart attack, stroke, or another form of cardiovascular disease, as opposed to non-cat owners. What’s more, a recent study from the Mayo Clinic Center for Sleep Medicine found that over 40% of pet owners slept better because of their pet. There’s more - studies have shown that a purring cat can help lower the level of cortisol within your body, which is a hormone that is associated with stress.
Simultaneously, it increases the level of serotonin within your body, which is a brain chemical that is responsible for happiness. “Purring vibrations also helps heal muscle, tendon, ligament, and other soft tissue injuries in both the cat and in human beings… They help ease breathing and lower pain levels. And that’s not all. A cat’s purr can bring down swelling, help heal infections, and strengthen the immune system. It helps to build bone and heal fractures, too. And some studies indicate that owning a cat may even lower your risk of cancer. As a person who has RD, I can’t think of a more natural, pleasant way to help treat my disease than having a cat living with me” wrote Leslie “Wren” Vandever, professional journalist, graphic and fine artist in her article called ‘RA and the Potential of Purr’.
Cats can be therapeutic
Cats can sense when their owners are feeling happy or when they are feeling sad. They will make you their number one priority in trying to boost your mood or provide you with a psychological distraction from your RA symptoms. “RD can force people with RD to spend a lot of time home alone. We get lonely and can become isolated, even from our families, and that, along with pain and disability can cause depression. Therapists sometimes prescribe cats as a way to cope with and recover from it. These small, warm, furry, beautiful animals are good company and good friends. You can talk to your cat about anything, for as long as you want, and she won’t judge you. She’ll love you no matter what. She loves to be warm and comfortable, so curling up on you will be one of her favorite things. You’ll also make her incredibly happy with gentle strokes, skritches, and pats” stated Wren.
Think about the responsibility
Of course, if you are considering getting a cat, you need to be aware of all of the aspects of owning a cat, including the negatives. A cat’s litter box tends to weigh a lot so when you are cleaning the litter box, this may require you to do some heavy lifting. Furthermore, having a cat or any kind of pet for that matter comes with extra financial burden. Being that most individuals with RA already have to deal with the financial burden of their condition, some cannot afford to get a pet. You need to take into account that cats require food, toys, cat litter, and veterinary care.
Needless to say, having a cat while coping with RA can be extremely therapeutic and helpful to your physical and mental health. After taking into consideration the pros and cons of owning a cat, the responsibility is yours to take on as you see fit. Most individuals suggest looking at your local shelter or kitty rescue organizations first. “There is really nothing more heartwarming than adopting from a shelter and providing your new kitty with their forever home. It has been said that the pet realizes it has been saved and it is instantly loyal to you. There is an unbreakable bond almost immediately” stated Carol Eustice.