To say that I’m an animal lover is an understatement. For as long as I can remember I’ve always had a pet. Most of that time it was multiple pets. From our family beagle named Buddy to two iguanas named Iggy and Kurt, to a very special mutt named Clio, and my first kitty and feline soulmate, Morpheus, each animal had its own unique personality and touched my life in a profound way. And I know that so many other people love their pets as much as I love mine. So, in light of National Love Your Pet Day, I’d like to reflect on how pets have had such a positive impact on my life. I’d love to hear your story, too.

Technically, Morpheus wasn’t my first feline companion. We had a kitten when I was really young but had to give her to a family friend because my sister was (and still is) severely allergic to cats. I adopted him in 2001 from the Humane Society of Bergen County in Lyndhurst, NJ. When I first laid eyes on him, he was a brown and apricot ball of fluff with huge black paws. His body twitched, deep in a kitty slumber. He looked like he was peacefully dreaming, so I named him after the Greek dream lord, Morpheus, shaper of dreams.

Throughout the years, Morpheus was my rock.  We were emotionally connected in a way that I haven’t been able to connect with a human. Morpheus anticipated my needs, as I did his. When I was upset, he sat on my lap purring to soothe me and standing guard to potential threats. Likewise, when he was not feeling well or upset with one of the other cats, I knew. Ultimately, the time came where I had to make the heart-wrenching decision to end his suffering when his stomach and intestines were consumed by cancer. Nine years later, I still grieve.

The silver lining to a tragic situation was that I started volunteering with a local animal rescue. I helped many loving pets get adopted into equally loving homes and nursed the forgotten souls back to health, restoring their body and spirit. I learned a lot of tips and tricks from fellow volunteers to keep your pet happy and healthy. For example, tackling a flea problem at the get-go is important. Why would you want your pet to suffer nasty flea bites that can cause a painful allergic reaction? At the rescue, we gave flea baths and topical flea chemical to repel fleas. It would have been so much easier (and less stressful on both human and animal) to use a Flea Doctor flea comb. Also, showing your pet love can be as easy as interacting with them. Not just giving them pets, but playing fetch or challenging their mind with mental stimulation.

My pets have always been my family. I can’t imagine them any other way. I know I am sending extra love my cats’ way (all seven of them!) on National Love Your Pet Day. How will you show your pet yours? Start a conversation in the comments below!