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Pets: Giving Company and Comfort

Maybe it’s because I grew up in a family of women. Whatever the reason, both times I was pregnant I was certain I would have a girl. Both times, I was wrong. With two sons and our family happy and complete, we decided to adopt two female cats to even out the gender balance as I had suddenly become quite outnumbered. The names I had been cherishing since childhood for my daughters I gave to the kittens instead: Stella and Hazel.

I have always been an animal person. My history and connection with both dogs and cats (and rabbits, fish, hamsters, and hermit crabs) runs deep. Just look at the twisted arms of my many friends who I convinced to adopt pets I found on the side of the road. For me, animals are an endless source of love and comfort. The positive energy exchanged between owner and pet is limited only by the expansiveness of the owner’s heart.

As someone who has struggled with migraines for decades, I have found deep and meaningful relationships with pets can alleviate the pain and isolation that comes with the condition.

Comfort

In my experience, the intensity of migraine pain can be lessened through the distraction and comfort that comes from pets.  Stella and Hazel have provided me with endless hours of relief when I’m struggling with migraines. Like moths drawn to the flame, my cats seem to sense when I’m in serious distress. They leap to my side and plant themselves on either side of my body, often pinning me down – effectively keeping me still and quiet. Their purring reminds me to draw slow and deep breaths along with them. And the simple act of petting their soft fur pulls my focus outward thus serving to keep me calm and perhaps even to deescalate my pain.

Company

Migraines turn up the volume on everything. Lights are brighter, noises are louder, smells are overpowering. We may try making plans with friends which are often canceled last minute due to the inconvenient arrival of a migraine. In response, we retreat to a controlled environment where the world is as dark and quiet as possible. And for those of us with chronic migraines, we must retreat often. Wrestling with crippling pain also tends to draw focus inward. All of these things can lead to fairly isolated existence.


To combat this challenging reality, it is incredibly helpful to have a healthy focus outside ourselves. Something we can touch, feel, look at, hold, engage, and talk with. When we are blessed enough to spend some time with our pets, our focus shifts up and out.

Considering what’s best for you

Some people can manage the responsibility of dogs, or a greater number of pets than I can. Indeed, I miss the days I could handle a dog, but am not currently in a place where I can be responsible for taking a dog for a walk several times a day. A hard pill to swallow, but it’s one of many limitations that I’ve had to accept related to chronic migraine. I also recognize that there are many people with migraines who are unable to keep up with any pets due to the pain and side effects of migraines and/or migraine medication. There are days that I struggle to keep up with the simple responsibilities of my cats (litter, food, medications, etc). To that end, every person must evaluate whether or not a pet makes sense for them.

But ultimately, for me, as someone who has chronic migraines, having Stella and Hazel to keep me company and provide comfort and distraction is priceless. Having their sweet and soft souls within reach while wrestling with such horrific pain can make all the difference in the world.

Do you have a pet in your life? Do they provide you with comfort and decrease your sense of isolation?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • Bostonfan15
    3 years ago

    I’ve had my cat, Fenway for 9 years. I’ve had chronic migraines for 5 years. Just yesterday, I had a pretty bad migraine, & went to lay down. Now Fenway is not the affectionate type, but when I have a migraine & lay down, Fenway comes & lays down right next to me & just purrs. It relaxes me & I even think it helps the pain.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    3 years ago

    Bostonfan15- First, what a great name for your cat. Second, a great story to hear how your cat, not normally affectionate was drawn to your side to help provide you with affection and comfort, calming you down when you were in pain. Incredible creatures. Thanks for sharing! – Holly Baddour (migraine.com team)

  • Jane O'Neill
    3 years ago

    I have always had dogs since I was a little girl. Can’t imagine a life without them. I have chronic migraines & my dog actually gives me a distraction when I am in pain. She will nudge me to play or come to me with a toy in her mouth. Getting outside with her even for a short walk will get my focus off my pain sometimes. My hubby will help take her too if I can’t pull myself up to take her. But she is constant joy in my life!

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    3 years ago

    Hi Jane. Thanks so much for sharing with us. Wonderful to hear how your dog provides you comfort and distraction from the pain of chronic migraines. It is a great point that having a reason to get out for a short walk can be a wonderful perspective-giver when in the midst of a migraine storm. Warmly, Holly Baddour (migraine.com team)

  • bluebird
    3 years ago

    My Mochi is Japanese Chin. She is only 7lbs, aging with cataracts and few teeth left. She has a seizure disorder and is on phenobarb. She is not a clingy creature, preferring her own space and choosing her times to be close. Sometimes, I have to monitor her to keep her breathing going when she has an episode. In turn, Mochi is so deeply attuned to my chronic daily migraine that I am never alone. She focuses her attention as I am shutting down. If I am not roused to reassure her and to tell her to lie down, she seeks someone else to come to look at my condition. She knows when I am really going down hard and stays focused on my face or breathing. I sometimes reemerge to see her face in mine..patiently waiting. OR she may decide enough is enough and becomes insistent that I awaken and pull myself together…even just for moments to reassure her. She often knows before I do that aura is setting in and begins staring at me to closely observe changes. This never happens if I don’t have a Migraine event. I am so grateful for her loving attention. It is also a great benefit to my partner who is kind and needs the relief from attending to my situation.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    3 years ago

    bluebird- It is lovely to hear how you and Mochi are interdependent. One of my cats also has health issues and I find that sometimes the process of caring for her lifts my focus up and out from my own pain and troubles. Your dog sounds incredibly tuned in to you – focused and loving. What a beautiful relationship you share. We are grateful to you for joining the conversation and sharing your story. Holly Baddour (migraine.com team)

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