Pets can be of great comfort for people suffering from chronic illnesses like fibromyalgia. There’s a reason why dogs are considered “man’s best friend”: their tremendous loyalty. But your pet doesn’t have to be a dog, your new best friend could easily be a cat, a guinea pig or even a parrot.
There are many reasons why pets are good for both physical and mental well-being, and we’ve listed five of them with help from healthline.com and Fighterzine.
The number one reason for having a pet is for companionship. OK, so unless you have a particularly talkative parrot or budgerigar the conversation may only be one way, but having a pet in your life will help fend off loneliness and boredom. Cats and dogs often seem to have a sixth sense when their owners are unwell and will sit quietly by their side keeping them company.
Petting cats and dogs has been documented to help reduce stress and boost mood. If it’s not practical to keep a dog or cat in your home, take the time to visit friends or relatives who have pets. You can also volunteer at a local shelter for a few hours so you can give some love to homeless cats and dogs. Staring at pretty aquarium fish or even watching pet birds can have an equally calming effect, helping you unwind.
MORE: Read our columnist Robin Dix’s take on having a pet when you have fibromyalgia.
Provides a Distraction
We know looking after a pet is a big undertaking, but it also acts as a great distraction. No matter what your day’s been like or how you feel, you’ll still need to feed your pet, look after its home and get it outside. Not only will this serve as a distraction to your fibromyalgia but will also give you a sense of purpose and something to focus on.
Forces You to Exercise
If you choose a dog, then you’ll need to take the dog for a walk, which means going outside at least twice a day. The exercise and fresh air will be great for your physical health and mental well-being. If the weather’s nice, there will be the added bonus of soaking up some vitamin D.
Gets You in a Routine
Having a pet to look after means that you need to get into a routine. The type of pet you get will depend on your living arrangements and how severe your fibromyalgia is, but there really is a pet for everyone. Whether you opt for a lizard or a kitten, a goldfish or a rabbit, it will demand your attention and will be totally reliant on you.