On July 28, the tiny white fluff ball I got nearly three years ago will be celebrating his birthday. I'm spoiling him beyond reason with ice cream and treats galore.

I don't know if cats ever really understand how much they mean to us, but that little man has saved my life more times than I want to admit.

Max is an emotional support animal for me. When I have an anxiety attack or a panic attack, he's there, biting me as I cry and rock to distract me from the perturbing thoughts which sent me spiraling downward.

He runs around and flips his catnip-filled mice in the air when I'm not feeling up to getting out of bed, just to entice me to come chase him and play with him.

My baby boy sleeps on my feet every night, protecting me from nightmares and waking whenever I do to make sure I'm OK, gently licking the bridge of my nose after he snuggles up on a pillow next to my head.

Max has not been specifically trained to be an emotional support animal. However, on instinct, he does these acts. Because I've had him since he was 8 weeks old, the little dude has picked up on the shifts in my moods. He knows when things are rough, and he knows when things are really good, responding in kind to each.

I was diagnosed with depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder a while ago. I never realized how much of a difference I would see in my mood once I got an animal that understood.

Maxwell Jamal is the best thing that has ever happened to me.

Cats are therapeutic for a lot of people. Dogs are therapeutic for others. And there have even been stories of birds providing that little bit of light the person needs in their life.

These animals add something more to your life. They're more than just pets. They're your best friend. They're a companion when times get tough. They're your everything.

And that's beautiful.

— Reach Katherine Ranzenberger at kranzenberger@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @YDKatherine. Follow [Your]k Health on Facebook. 

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