10 Benefits of Having a Pet When You Live With Chronic Ill-health

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The term ‘pet’ always seems so inadequate to me. Let’s face it, our animals are part of the family.

Animals are truly amazing. They can be trained to be someone’s eyes or ears, to help disabled people live more independent lives, and even protect their owners while having a seizure. Animals also offer much needed emotional support for many around the world. 

There have been many studies into the benefits animals offer to those with physical and mental illnesses. Animals give unconditional love and support. They provide acceptance without judgment, and can help to ease feelings of worry, distress, and loneliness. Our pets help us through our tough days – we would be lost without them. 

I personally have 6 snakes, not your traditional pets but they have such individual personalities, and they always put a smile on my face.

This is Freddy. The eldest of our 6 Corn Snakes

For the following post, I reached out to my followers and asked; How do your fur babies (or furless babies) help you when you are having a bad day? What comfort do they bring to your chronic life? 

I have included lots of adorable photos of my followers loyal pets. If you need cheering up today, please have a scroll through this post. 

10 ways pets can improve your health & happiness

Whether you live with chronic illness, or mental ill-health, or like me, both, having pets in our lives can brighten up even our darkest days. Animals offer unconditional support and companionship, and they always instinctively know when we need extra love and cuddles. 

Speak to any pet owner and they will reel off an endless list of ways that animal companions can change lives. Pets can be our best friends, confidants, motivators and even our teachers. In many cases, they also improve our wellbeing and health. For some people, pets are quite simply a lifeline. It’s no wonder that an estimated 12 million, or 44 per cent of households in the UK have pets.

As if you needed another reason to love your furry friend, your pet could enhance your life and contribute to your health and happiness.

1. They offer companionship & prevent loneliness 

Living with a chronic illness can be isolating and lonely. Many of us are housebound and spend long periods of time on our own. Having a pet to keep us company can help prevent loneliness and lift our spirits. 

Here are some quotes from my followers;

When I feel bad he’s always the one I want to see first. He’s a rescue boy. He had to have his leg amputated because someone used him as target practise with an air rifle 🤬 but I rescued him 6 years ago and now he rescues me xxx Radha Maynard

His name is Sidney or as I call him, Squiddles 😁 xx – Radha Maynard

Some days my fur babies are the only ones, I actually speak to. – @FyeAlthea

I have 3 dogs, 2 Jack Russel/chihuahua crosses and a full chi, 2 hamsters and 4 rats. They all have different personalities and they’re wonderful company – Nat Moore

Image by Nat Moore

Cosmo. He’s my satellite, always there, always close to me. I don’t feel alone with him when confined to bed. And he always shows how happy he is I’m there. – Bayou Mystere

Cosmo by Bayou Mystere

I have four rescue cats who keep me smiling. My ginger boy Quinn is incredibly loyal and always stays close esp during my worst pain, he just knows. They are amazing company and support – @RainbowStephan

Images by @RainbowStephan

I don’t know what I would do without her (Snowball) #Bestfriends –@penn_miller

Snowball by @penn_miller
Morning cuddles and company during the day… 😊 (with Elvis) @MissDrifty

I was heartbroken knowing I couldn’t have my soul rats anymore due to my health, but my new mice live right next to my bed.. its been a month and I haven’t had a lonely day since we got them.  I feel so much better just with them there. – Clare Ratty Hall 

Images by Clare Ratty Hall 

Sadly my girl of 16 years got her wings two months ago. Living alone, my home is so empty without her. 29 years of CFS/ME. For the last 16 she was my little soulmate 🐾🦋 – Joni Lauzon 

Image by Joni Lauzon 

I have 4 rats. They help me a lot and are easy to take care of. They like darkness and silence. They eat similar food to us humans. They don’t live long which is positive in my case as I don’t know how long I will be able to care for them. They’re very quiet and clean but affectionate 💕 – Blake Bacon

Image by Blake Bacon

Here is Stitch. He was my loyal friend. We had to say bye to him a few years ago. I miss him so much – @CharterSub

Stitch by @CharterSub

2. They can make us feel safe

When you live alone, or spend long periods by yourself, a pet can offer us protection – a sense of feeling safe. Also venturing out on our own can be very daunting, but having a companion on our trips can make this potentially stressful time, a little easier. And if we are able to go for short walks pets, especially dogs, can give us a reason to exercise, and improve our fitness too. 

Yuma is our 225 pound St. Bernard – Lisa Sabotta Bergan

3. They offer comfort when we need it most

‘Comfort’ is possibly a hard thing to define. But just having an animal by our side, or having cuddles with our favourite pet, can bring us comfort, especially on our bad days. Animals seem to instinctively know when we are having a bad day and need extra affection. This comfort is always greatly appreciated. 

My followers reported many ways their pets comfort them;

Mozart and Mimî share my bed on my bad days. ❤️ – Lilian Morgan

My dog lays by the side of me or on me during naps, he’s always SO happy to see me, if I’m faint and end up on the floor, he puts his nose in my hand. He walks well by my wheelchair, and he always comes bounding up the stairs when he hears me being woken for morning meds. – Lizzy Horn

(Barney) 😁 he’s a rescue, he’s nearly 7 but we’ve had him about 3years:) – Lizzy Horn

I have two little terriers who I adore equally but Sam is my comfort doggy who picks up on my emotions and pain. He licks my hand, gives me cuddles and nuzzles me. Try’s to play and in turn makes me laugh. He helps me sooo much💕🐾. I love him v much. Xx – Donna Dawson

Image by Donna Dawson

I have terminal cervical cancer with metastatic lymph node involvement  and a dvt in the right groin and Oreo lays on my stomach/pelvis like he’s protecting me or trying to heal me from the outside. My other cat Sugar lays on the back of the couch above my head and the 3 dogs (Max, Eve & Gigi) take turns on who gets to lay directly under my feet – Kelly Missigman

Image by Kelly Missigman
My Duke just being Duke. I don’t know where I’d be without him – Lynsey Lou

My kitty whiskers tickles her whiskers on my face to remind me she is there. So comforting x. – Stephi Ingham

Image by Stephi Ingham

Bob is often absent, but when I really need to rest he has a tendency to come and lie on my lap in a way that makes doing anything other than stop impossible! Would be without my furry companion, he’s there when nobody else is. Love him to bits 💜💙🧡❤ – @rolypeck

Image by @rolypeck

My little Shazam used to cuddle up whenever I sat down even for a minute ❤️💔 – @peacocktat2

Image by @peacocktat2

Cats just know how to make us feel better <3 Wendy MacFarlane

4. They can help us connect with others

As a conversation starter online, or a way to meet other people in the real world – our pets can be the connection we need to meeting new people. They can help us make friends, and we all know how hard that can be when living with a chronic illness. Pets can also help boost our confidence. 

Image by Carry Hummels

5. They provide unconditional love & Support

Pets provide acceptance without judgment, giving unconditional love and support, which we don’t always receive from family or friends. Whether friends or family know they are doing it or not, sometimes they can be judgemental. This unconditional love and support can help to ease feelings of worry, distress, and loneliness.

This unconditional love from animals was a common theme amongst comments left by my followers;

This is our dog Skye who is a rescue dog and is going blind. We bonded after doing a transport run for Akita Rescue and Welfare and just couldn’t leave her in the kennels. Two months after getting her I had a huge flare up. I really don’t know where I’d be without her. In this pic I’m trying to crochet and this is the 3rd time I’ve had to pull it all back and start again. She’s telling me it’s OK you can do it… and I did – Cheryl Smith

Skye by Cheryl Smith

She (Sienna) looks after me by giving me cuddles to distract me and is very protective of me when I’m having a bad day!😭 And even though she’s still young and full of energy, on my bad days she is the calmest dog in the world😭😊 – @krystalamyblog

Sienna by @krystalamyblog

Took this yesterday because I just got back from being away and she’s constantly sat on me since- we missed each other. Unconditional love and support @Littlev33244419

Image by @Littlev33244419

Here’s our lvly Gem, enjoying nightly 8.30pm blanket time & watching The Wedding Singer with me earlier tonight! She’s not the brightest spark (likes licking plastic bags & still can’t open a door w her paw) but makes us all smile everyday 😻…. I forgot to say that the most wonderful thing abt having a pet, is being able to say anything to it & it will not only remain neutral but love you unconditionally!! From a chronic illness POV, my family members understandably tend to reach saturation point…. @SergyCathy

Image by @SergyCathy

Definitely help, my PomChi Jazz alerts me to a flare the day before, she stands near the stairs grunting for me to go to bed. Lola our Jackahuahua give me lots of cuddles, follows me everywhere. – @did_40

Jazz & Lola by @did_40

Just love animals! 2008 I was saved by a wonderful cat called Mimboo, she was our friends cat, I went to live temp at this friends while my partner was abroad working. Through my friends moving situation Mimboo came to stay with us for her final few years, heartbreaking to lose her, she was everything to us! We now have a rescue cat called Magsie who we adopted 6 years ago. She makes us so happy, her ways, her love and trust…just adore her.x  – Joanne Lee

Mimboo & Magsie by Joanne Lee

6. They give us a sense of purpose

When living with a chronic illness, it can be difficult to find structure and meaning, day in and day out. Pets give us a reason to get out of bed, or out of the house if we are well enough. They can give us a sense of purpose that is often lost due to chronic ill-health. Having a pet can also help us to keep a strong sense of identity and self-worth. 

Many of my followers discussed how their pets gave them a sense of purpose;

After having to give up my job of ten years after being diagnosed with this horrible illness, it brought me the best thing on earth and that is my family.  I don’t have kids but I do have my two dogs (both under a year old). They are my kids, my life and my family. They give me the reason to get up every morning.  The reason that I can smile when things are really hard. With losing my job, losing my health and the old me and alot of my identity, to losing my best friend. Each day I have a reason to smile.  A sense of purpose. Without my dogs I would be in a totally different place… It is very hard work, especially with having M.E and other conditions. It is not easy at all. But they are my everything. Here are some pictures for cuteness.  Willow and Thor. Willow is the light coloured corgi and Thor the dark. – Claire Kennedy

Willow & Thor by Claire Kennedy

Before I came down with ME I worked in health care and provided animal assisted pet therapy. The residents loved it! If I didn’t have my pets, after suffering with ME, who knows where I would be? They have kept me going on!🐈🐱🐕🦊 – Kimberley Krause 

My darling little girl Innie gets me through every day my life would be hell without her just love her so much – Jan Inman

Innie by Jan Inman

7. Owning a pet can lower stress levels

Pets can help us relax – stroking your cat or simply watching fish swim around in a tank can reduce stress levels. Studies have proven that pet owners tend to have lower blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels than people who don’t own a pet. And as we all know, being in pain, or constantly ill, can be very stressful. 

Miss Trouble knows when I have a migraine.  She starts out wrapped around my throat. Her purring seems to calm the pain and there is nothing better than kitty cuddles! Lana Thiesen

Image by Lana Thiesen
Zion being adorable 🐾💖 Chantaie Reddz

8. Pets are great for our mental health too

It’s official, pets are great for our mental health too. A number of studies have concluded that pets benefit people with a number of mental health problems. The conclusion of a recent review into these studies by Dr. Helen Louise Brooks, from the University of Liverpool in the UK, was that pet ownership has a valuable contribution to mental health, and should be incorporated into individual care plans for patients.

I know my snakes help my mental health, and a few of my followers felt the same way about their pets;

He makes me look forward to go home. I am thinking about him all the time. I love him so. – Elisabete Braga 

Image by Elisabete Braga

My dog (Gizmo) is often on my youtube channel I did this video about how he helps hes the best on my bad days. @bloomingmindxx

Image by @bloomingmindxx

Tonight I’m being loved by Ziva, without all my animals I’d be lost. – Louise Wilson

Ziva by Louise Wilson

9. They give us a reason to live

For those of us that struggle with depression, or suicidal thoughts, pets can give us a much needed reason to live. Our animals rely on us to feed them and give them a safe home. 

This was another strong theme throughout the comments I received from my followers:

Halo, cat, well my fur baby princess, is everything! Been together 10years, she is the only thing that has kept me alive and stop me committing suicide she is there for me 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. I couldn’t be without her and she has social issues of her own she gets separation anxiety and very nervous so she needs me just as much as I need her. when I’m in physical pain, when I’m crying she’s the first thing that comes up to me and is there for me and just put her nose on mine, I’d be lost and heartbroken without her…cats are the best! – Kate Olivia Brookson

Image by Kate Olivia Brookson

Last January tiny foxes that lost their mom. They basically saved my life. I had just gotten over viral meningitis on top of severe ME. I knew if I didn’t take care of them they would die. Thinking of nature and all the wild animals and what they are exposed to everyday as well how easy a little life could be snuffed out meant more to me then my own suffering. So along with my 4 cats and awesome dog, I care for 3 young foxes and watch them thrive daily! Brings more joy into my life!🥰 – Kimberley Krause

My cat daughter Cookie. This demanding, noisy little furball has saved my life more than once. My constant companion. We’ve had 12 years together so far ❤ – Kirsty Rankin

Cookie by Kirsty Rankin

Yes mine my family. I have nobody else. I would sure die without them. It is hard but they are my kids. Life be worse without them – Au-Rain Colenz

10. Animals bring us joy and they are always happy to see us

And last, but definitely not least, animals can be hilarious – they make us laugh in so many ways. They bring joy into our lives, and they are always happy to see us. It’s impossible not to smile when you have a furry friend at your side. 

Makes me laugh so much and keeps me going filling his endless demands loll [His name is] Cheeco he’s 11 now and still always up to something 😂 he’s got a fan club. All the local kids love him but think he’s getting a bit grumpy with them now 🤦‍♀️@kandisholland18

Cheeco by @kandisholland18

My gerbils make me laugh when I feel sad @Zoompad

Snoozin’, chillin’. Greyhound at work 💕… His name is Myles… Little did we know that he had absolutely no idea, at 4 years old, what his name was! For the first few weeks, living in a house, learning everything, he believed his name was Oi!.. Settled in well. Paws well under the table. Increased the number of comfy beds available for his use & became the ‘beloved hound’ after my #sepsis / & subsequent relapse of #ME in 2013. Retired Greyhounds are calm, have no dander/minimum loss of fur, love the quiet, sleep 27/24!💙 @HappyHoundHouse

Myles aka ‘Happy Hound’ by @HappyHoundHouse

When I was in hospital I  was visited by Otis the therapy dog. It was lovely, I felt so ill but he really cheered me up. – Claire Coleman

“My cat always makes me smile. In fact every animal puts a smile on my face ❤” by Viv Flay

I looked after a friends dog last week whilst they went on holiday for a week. It was hard work but also hilarious at times and he is so loving ❤ Viv Flay

Image by Viv Flay

My cat is a real character, he’s massive and quite feisty when he wants to be, but he LOVES cuddling on the bed with me, being brushed, and learning tricks (he can high five, sit, and jump over something, on command) he enjoys it, which makes me feel good. I love seeing him look so peaceful when he sleeps, or climbs into baskets, or scamps around the house/garden. If I see him outside, and tap on the window he comes running to me😌 My cat always makes me smile. In fact every animal puts a smile on my face ❤ … his name is Barley, hes the boss 😃 Lizzy Horn

Travis by Lizzy Horn

My fur babies can always make me smile, even on my worst days, I’d be lost without them. Case in point, here’s Charlie with a very unusual tail position (although it’s quite normal for him 😁) – Kate Blagdon

Charlie by Kate Blagdon

Animals are truly amazing

Animals are natural healers. They live in the now, they love unconditionally and make you laugh every single day. They bring us comfort even on our darkest days, and give us a reason to live. 

A huge thank you to everyone who contributed and shared their pet photos, and stories. 

I hope this post has provided a much needed dose of cute, adorable fluffiness. I know it has put a big smile on my face. 

If you are reading this and have an amazing pet of your own, please share your love for your beloved animal, and a photo too 💙

For more personal stories, reviews, news, inspirational quotes and in-depth discussion, please head over to my Facebook page.

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10 Comments

  1. Oh my, what lovely words and photos! Unfortunately I’m not allowed any pets where I live, and I’m allergic to cats which is just so sad, but I keep a couple of plushies close by and cuddle with those. This was such a heartwarming post. Animals really are amazing!

  2. I will never forget the time that I mentioned to my rheumatologist that I got some exercise by walking my dogs. This mild-mannered man hates hypotheticals and loves data. He said, “The studies show that having a pet of any kind will help your health, although why anyone would have a cat, I have no idea.” 😂 (I do have a cat, too.)

  3. I am really thinking about getting a dog. I love seeing how happy pets can make people and the lovely company and unconditional love they can give. I think this post may be a sign ahah. Hope you are well today. Lots of love, Susie x

    findyourownhope.com

  4. Awww it’s so lovely to see all these furbabies & hear how they change people’s lives for the better. My dog, before he sadly had to be put down a few years ago, was such a comfort to me. I hope one day I can bring home another dog, but I’m not sure the cat (who brings no comfort as he rarely wants to be near me unless there’s food 😂) would be too happy about it. Having a pet really can be lifechanging and make so much difference, especially when you’re living with chronic illness.
    Caz xx

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