I have come to the realisation, of late, that Ted is much more than a pet. He is also an emotional support animal.
Unlike the United States, Australia doesn’t account for emotional support animals, only assistance dogs (which includes guide dogs). Personally, I wish there was some kind of register that I could put him on. Though only starting as a normal kitten, Ted has given me the support I never knew could exist with a pet.
This is not to say that I have never had a pet that I loved, quite the opposite. There is one exceptional difference here, Ted’s life is totally in my hands. I don’t rely on my parents to take care of Ted for me, I am his mum and he knows that. There have been times that Ted has been sick and he has felt horrible, I was there to nurse him back to health. I never thought he would repay it in 10x the amount that I gave to him.
If I didn’t have Ted during the time of COVID, I would have adopted a kitten anyway. Yet, having a kitten one year prior to the pandemic, didn’t matter once Australia got locked down. I originally got Ted partly because I was having some mental health issues and needed something to boost my mood. Now, this might not be the most rational thing, as it rings similar bells to ‘a kitten isn’t just for Christmas’. However, I had been wanting a kitten for ages, I was being the responsible pensioner and thinking financially. What happened was that on 26 June 2019, my mother rocked up and took me to Animal Aid – I had 2 kittens picked out, Ted (known as Eric) and another kitten. The other one was being held for adoption, I couldn’t take that away from another pet owner, so I got in the cage and held this grey fluff in my arms. He squirmed and I knew he was mine, though mum said we could go to the adoption agency in the next town over. I put him down and he instantly got on his hind legs and stretched up to me. Ok, I know – I didn’t choose him, he chose me.
A study in 2012 called, Psychosocial and Psychophysiological Effects of Human-Animal Interactions: The Possible Role of Oxytocin, stated that over the pass decade “that widely accepted that pet ownership and animal assistance in therapy and education may have a multitude of positive effects on humans.” In the study it was found that if spend time with an animal, in this case a cat, it increases a persons level of oxytocin. The result of this chemical being released increases a persons sense of well being. The study also stated that playing with a cat can increase serotonin and dopamine levels, two chemicals key in regulating mood disorders such as depression.
Cats Are The Unsung Heroes of Mental Health, which is the article that inspired this post went into further details and studies about the benefits of cats (and dogs) as therapy animals.
Cats can be seen as being too independent, but for me – that is why I love them as being therapy animals. See, during the day (apart from when he demands a walk), Ted does his own thing. Sleeps, plays and lies near me while I write away on my blog posts and articles. Then at night, when I relax in the recliner, he settles down next to me, until it is time for bed. Then he sleeps next to me, when he isn’t terrorising his sister.
Sitting next to me on the recliner is a new thing that has happened recently. For the first 2 years of him being with me, he would never sleep on me. It had to be on his terms that he would grace me with his presence. Something seemed to change when I had to look after him after a bad reaction from the yearly vacine. Then later on, when I got my first COVID shot – he stayed by my side.
If I could, I would register Ted as my emotional support animal. He is a comfort and reassurance when my anxiety wants to battle for attention. He is one of the reasons that I get out of bed in the morning. He gives me unconditional love and support.