A hand pets a cat who lovingly looks back at its owner.

Pets Make All the Difference

Disclaimer: In this article, I am going to outline how my pets have been helpful to me through my diagnosis. I know pets are not a feasible option, especially for those of us who have disabilities. However, if owning one is possible, here are the reasons why I think people with rheumatoid arthritis should have one.

First, let’s start with a story…

Pets for emotional support

One day, almost eighteen years ago, a girl lost her mother. The girl’s father wanted to get his daughter a pet to help her navigate grief and provide companionship. Seven days later, this girl got her first cat…

My dad thought a cat would distract me, give me company, and hopefully fill the hole of loss; all the while teaching me responsibility (he is a dad after all!). He was right. Marmalade provided the support I needed.

Who knew that eight years down the line, Marmalade would provide that support all over again. Rheumatoid disease is mentally-draining, stressful, depressing and isolating. Marmalade (and the other three, of course) distracts me from the constant onslaught of symptoms, supports and loves me unconditionally.

Pets, patience, and rheumatoid arthritis

A few years later, when this girl was in high school, she talked her father into getting a dog. A small fluffy dog named Affie. Affie was a stubborn little thing that made this girl want to tear her own hair out, but as the years progressed, this girl learned patience…

To say I was high-strung is an understatement. I was a freaking whirlwind. I moved quickly, I talked faster and blasted through life at warp speed. I was not a patient person.

The importance of patience and slowing down

When I was diagnosed I tried futilely to maintain my routine. How do you think I fared? I learned the hard way to slow down, take my time and relax.

I learned to be patient because of Affie, especially at the beginning. Training a dog is tough. It requires love, understanding, and a solid relationship with your charge. Every time she didn’t want to obey, I had to be kind and work through the wall. I had to do the same with myself.

I cannot just will my rheumatoid arthritis away. I need to be patient and wait for results (treatments, especially). I can’t just wing it and hope for a positive result. I have to plan and execute carefully.

My pets helped me stay active with rheumatoid arthritis

Fast forward to the present and this little girl is grown up. She still has Marmalade, Sunsilk (who came between the two), and Affie. She had a second dog who she lost and adopted a new one. Her oldest pets are all over the age of 14 and need extra love and attention. Her youngest is three and has a lot of energy. Affie has a heart condition and needs exercise to maintain her health. Every day this girl harnesses her dogs and takes them for walks twice a day…

Move it or lose it, a lot of people say. We are like the Tin Man. We need to oil our joints to keep them from locking up and causing pain. Most doctors agree that exercise is good for people with RA because it is an anti-inflammatory, boosts mood, and keeps the joints from stiffening.

This one is pretty self-explanatory, but my dogs keep me moving. They have to go for their walk and I take them.

Without my pets, my RA journey would've been different

My disease would look a lot different if I didn’t have my four pets. I definitely wouldn’t fare as well as I do now. Pets provide a constant support that is completely necessary in the management of an autoimmune condition. Sometimes, I find that my pets are there for me more than people!

Do you have a pet? Do you agree with me? Let me know in the comments!

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