Petplan customer Rebecca Thomas suffers from multiple sclerosis, a chronic disease that attacks the central nervous system and can cause mobility problems, pain and fatigue. Here she tells us how she and her rescue cat, Roger, have helped each other to keep going.
'Multiple sclerosis, or MS, can be unpredictable but Roger has been one of my greatest allies in facing the disease. We're not sure of his exact age and history, because he was rescued as a stray before we adopted him. And even though we've had him for ages and he's getting on in years, he's never lost his nervousness around new people or situations.
'So my partner Ben and I have made sure to keep him healthy by minimising his stress levels with a reassuring routine, which usually involves regular new toys and scratch posts, and we end every night with him fishing snacks out of his favourite food puzzle toy. While it might sound silly, I also think that one of the biggest factors in keeping him fit and well is that he knows he's needed.
'Depression and anxiety are common symptoms of MS, and Roger senses when I'm feeling down and helps me to escape the negative thinking. When I'm all "woe is me" he'll suddenly fold himself into a box that isn't quite big enough or race down the garden and leap up a tree for no apparent reason. His antics are absurd, funny and out of the blue which is my ideal therapy.
'Managing MS also involves giving my brain a rest from stimulation a couple of times a day. That means no TV, radio or reading. It can be boring and frustrating, but happily Roger seems to know when I'm taking a break and enthusiastically joins me for a nap. On duty, and ready to sleep! He's a lesson in relaxation and mindfulness, and he certainly doesn't feel guilty about sleeping during the day, so why should I?
'Roger cleans up the food I propel across the kitchen floor when my hands aren't working so well, and he listens without judging when I'm frustrated, tired, worried or sad. He seems to know that his job is to help care for me in all the ways that he can, and I think that's helped to give his life some purpose as he gets older. He's certainly helped me to regain my own sense of purpose on some days, and he's helped to keep me smiling every day.'