If I were single, I would be a crazy cat lady. To be honest, even now I am borderline crazy cat lady. Whenever I visit my parent’s house, one of the first things I update them on is how my cats are doing and if they have developed any new tricks or habits (one is currently obsessed with the bathtub and the other LOVES to play fetch). The first thing I do when I come home to the apartment after a day out is give each of them a hug and a kiss, because really, they are my babies. I cannot help it, I was raised to love animals, and especially cats.
Growing up, my siblings and I always had a new critter. We always had at least two (if not three or four or five) cats roaming the house. I can’t even remember the names of all the hamsters, gerbils, and guinea pigs we had. Not to mention our baby painted turtles, the iguanas, and the frogs. Oh, and let’s not forget the parrots (And of course the time we adopted a sick, baby squirrel for a few days. Rest in Peace, sweet Chester). It was just something that was so natural to me, and when I left for college it was a bit of a shock to not have pets around. So for two and a half years, I lived without a furry creature to come home to.
In the fall of 2016, I started realizing how much I missed having pets around. After awhile I began looking around at the local shelters for kittens up for adoption. When I brought it up to my husband, he got excited as well and loved the idea of adopting our first furry child, but we quickly realized that our apartment building didn’t allow animals. I was slightly heartbroken. Knowing we would be living in that apartment for two more years without a pet was a little upsetting. Afterall, if we could have babies, pay our own bills, or buy a house, why the heck were we not allowed to have a cat?!
Shortly after this realization, our friends were petsitting a dog that lived in the building. We were so confused as to why these other students were allowed to have a pet and we couldn’t. That’s when we heard of ESAs, or Emotional Support Animals. Much different from service animals, the point of an emotional support animal is just that, to support you emotionally. This can be extremely helpful for those who suffer from anxiety and other emotional and mental disorders, as cats and dogs are proven to improve your mood and even bring physical healing to those who are sick. Knowing this, my hopes of having a cat were back and I was extremely motivated to make it happen.
I had been seeing a doctor at Fox Valley Wellness Center for my Crohn’s Disease (where I was also diagnosed with Lyme Disease, of course, that's my luck). I was making a trip up to the Fox Valley center every six to eight weeks, looking at my illness from an alternative, more holistic angle, and the thought occurred to me - this alternative, but fully certified, doctor would probably be more than willing to help me get an emotional support animal. After all, Crohn’s Disease causes a great deal of stress and fatigue, and having a cat would surely help. When I brought it up she was actually quite excited about helping me out and shared that she had just written a letter the week before for another patient with a similar illness. Let’s just say I was pretty ecstatic!
We contacted the people who would approve (or not approve) our request and then began the waiting process. Everyday I would check the shelters and read about so many adorable little cats in need of homes. I had narrowed down my options when we decided to make a trip to PAWs in Chicago. We saw a couple of cute cats and kittens, including two sisters who were literally sleeping on top of each other. Little did we know, as we left that day without approval of our ESAs, that those sleepy little babes would be ours in just a couple days. Long story short, we got approval two days later, and ended up with two little kittens, Spruce and Balsam, who were just two months old.
Almost six months later and our kittens are growing up and approaching adulthood way too quickly. Spruce is very talkative, loves to play fetch, look at Chicago’s skyline all day, and crawls under every blanket, bag, or clothing item she can find. Balsam, who probably needs her own ESA, loves playing in the bathtub, following us around all day asking for food, and splashing in her water bowl. It’s a shock we didn’t do baby pictures and monthly updates with them as if they were our own children.
Beyond their cute (and kind of annoying) quirks, I promise you, these little guys have done so much in getting me out of a flare up and making sure I don’t get too stressed. You can ask Jensen, I am much happier, take a lot fewer naps, and am generally more productive with the kittens around. On top of that, when I was figuring out my food intolerances and spending many days not feeling well, I would almost always find them by my side or laying at my feet, as their own way of comforting me when I was sick. I’ve had sleep problems for a couple of years now, and every night they sleep right next to me and keep me company when I am restless at two in the morning.
If you are dealing with any sort of mental or emotional disorder, and even if you just have a hard time managing stress, please look into getting an ESA. I promise you that they do help, and on top of that, who doesn’t want a furry friend? If you don’t need approval for your living situation, just go adopt a pet! If you do need approval, talk to your housing management for required documents, then go to your doctor for a letter or form of approval. This can be super easy to do! Mental illnesses are just as real as physical illnesses, and they should be taken seriously. If you are struggling, please reach out for help. There are so many resources, treatments, and medication that can help you to enjoy life to fullest. And if you’re afraid or aren’t sure if what you’re feeling is “real”, it is better to know than to continue to suffer and potentially be wrong. You are so important and what you’re feeling is real. Fight for your health, especially when your mind or body is against you.
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