Thursday, October 29th, is National Cat Day, and it got me thinking about having a cat when you are a cancer patient. It is not uncommon to get a pet following a cancer diagnosis.
In Australia last year, 77% of households with oncology patients reported getting a pet after they were diagnosed.1
Cats, along with other pets, can provide the following benefits to those undergoing cancer
They ease anxiety and elevate moods.
They can lower heart rates and blood pressure.
They provide a distraction from pain and stress.
They can help keep you grounded.
They can lessen your sense of fear.
They offer company and comfort, which lessens feelings of isolation and loneliness.
They relax you; petting or snuggling with a soft, friendly animal can release endorphins that have a calming effect.
Their loving energy can give you a rebound effect.
They give you the motivation to keep fighting and get better.
They can help you regain a sense of control for your own disease, and improve your quality of life.2
There were concerns in the last century that having a cat would increase the chance of cancer.1 But more recent studies have proven this idea to be untrue.
A 2006 study concluded that immunocompromised patients are not at any additional risk from pet contact than the general population. Even more recent studies validate this.
That said, there are still precautions one should take when dealing with cats as a cancer patient.
Washing your hands after handling a cat is essential, even if you wear gloves.
Keeping the cat(s) indoors so they do not come into contact with other animals.
If at all possible, have someone else handle the litter duties.
Perhaps consider getting claw caps to minimize the risk of getting scratched.
Make sure your cat stays healthy; get your cat checked by a veterinarian at least annually.
Have a contingency plan for the cat(s) should you have to go to the hospital.3
If you don’t already have a cat or other pet, talk to a veterinarian and get their OK about any
cat(s) you wish to adopt; even though the immunocompromised are not at a greater risk of
infection, there is still a risk. Particularly with zoonotic infections such as toxoplasmosis. Discuss any issues involving owning a pet with your oncology team.
Facing and treating cancer is a journey; you may as well have a companion to travel through it with.
~Wendy Rasmussen, Guest Blogger
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