Pets can help reduce depression
And, finally, at 24 years old after moving out of my parents' house, I finally have a pet of my own - a 2-year-old Calico cat named Katniss (yes, I named her after the main character in the book series the Hunger Games).
I went into Adopt-a-Pet in Fenton and, when I sat down, Katniss immediately came over and sat in my lap. Whenever another cat would come near me, she would slap it in the face, as if to say, "No, my human." The volunteers with the center would come into the room in awe -- telling me how the cat (previously named Little Miss) never acted that way around people and would never sit in a person's lap.
Katniss had been in the shelter longer than any of the other cats (for one year) because, the all other people, thought she was aggressive. The volunteers thought she was abused because her previous owner threw her out of the back of their car and sped away, just leaving her there. And, for one week, she ran away into the woods behind the adoption center until the volunteers finally found her.
You may be wondering why I'm telling this story, and how it has anything to do with depression awareness. You probably think I just enjoy gushing about my cat (which is partly true).
But the real reason is because of how happy having a cat has made me. Previously, I lived alone. Now, no matter how bad my day is or if I feel like I have no one who cares, as soon as I get home, my cat will jump up on my lap and make me feel that I am loved.
And I wondered if it is a proven fact that animals do help relieve depression.
So I did some research.
Ian Cook, a psychiatrist and director of the Depression Research and Clinic Program at UCLA, said "Pets offer an unconditional love that can be very helpful to people with depression."
WebMD reports that studies show animals can reduce tension and improve mood. Along with treatment, pets can help some people with mild to moderate depression feel better.
Here are some reasons:
1. Have you ever had a friend, family member or stranger make you feel bad about yourself or cause drama in your life? We're humans, so chances are, the answer is yes. With a pet, you don't have to worry about it hurting your feelings…or hurting its feelings.
2. Adding a little responsibility can help. According to WebMD, it can remind you that you are capable and can do more than you think.
3. A pet's daily routine can help you stay on track.
4. Depression can cause people to isolate themselves, but, with a pet, you're never alone.
5. Studies show that touch helps people feel better. I can attest to this because I always feel so much better when my cat snuggles up to me. There's something soothing about petting a cat on your lap.