I have three cats, Sparrow (bottom left), Klio (bottom right) and Daisy (top). And this will probably sound melodramatic, but over the past 10 years, when I have been in and out of my darkest depths mentally, they have probably saved my life.

Of course, my OCD has at times focused on them. OCD is a jerk, and that’s how it works. I generally tend to worry that one of them is sick, which has led to a lot of emergency vet trips in the past. It doesn’t help that Sparrow has feline asthma, and the first couple of vet trips were for real issues. That just let my brain cling to, “But last time, she really was sick.”

I’ve also worried about them getting out, about hornets or spiders attacking them when I’m not home, about fires, and so on.

That said, my cats have helped me with my OCD so much more than they’ve been the cause of it. Daisy is nothing but sweet and loves a lap, and there’s just something about a purring bundle of fur sitting on you that calms the mind. She’s also constantly adorable, and makes me smile.

Klio is more standoffish, but she loves to play, which is a nice distraction when I need it. She also has her own problems with anxiety — she was even on fluoxetine for almost a year at one point. Treating her anxiety helped convince me to treat my own OCD (“If I recognize that my cat needs help, why can’t I admit that I do, too?” I wondered). I’ve used some of the tips I learned in therapy to help diffuse her anxious spells, too.

I’ve had Sparrow the longest, since she was only a few weeks old, and she always seems to sense when I need some company. She follows me from room to room, winds around my feet when I’m working in the kitchen, and sleeps on my feet when I’m at the computer. She is also very attached to me, meeting me at the door every time I leave and keeping me in her line of sight when I’m home. Whenever I’m really down, I think about how she loves me unconditionally and would miss me if I was gone. It helps.

All three of them keep me from getting too deep into my head — as much as they can, anyway — and I love them a lot. And when things get really hard and it’s tough to keep going, I think about how much I love them, and how much they love me, and it helps me get through it.

I’m not the only OCDer who has found comfort in the unconditional love a pet brings (and the DIY exposure therapy involved in cleaning up after a pet). Pets aren’t for everyone, but for those of us who are animal lovers, pets can bring a lot of love and comfort into our lives.