Owning a pet isn’t for everyone, that’s for sure. It’s a huge responsibility, you need to be able to care for them, give your time and commit financially. Having said that, the benefits of owning a pet are immense, too many to discuss in just one blog to be honest! Here we are going to focus on why living with and caring for a pet is great for your mental health.
A reason to live
One of the main benefits to your mental health of owning a pet, especially a dog but this is also true in a lot of respects for owning a cat is they give you a reason to live. For example, an elderly person who perhaps lives on their own may not get out of bed until 11am as they don’t really have much to get up for. Imagine now that they had a hungry cat who wanted feeding and letting outside, they’d also like some attention and play time as well I imagine. Now that person needs to get out of bed to feed their cat, give them attention by stroking and playing with them. They might need to go to the shops to buy some more cat food or cat litter for their litter tray. They have a reason to get up and do things, they have a purpose. The responsibility of owning a dog is much greater as they also need regular exercise, which also has massive benefits for the human as well so it’s a win-win situation!
Having this responsibility and purpose helps to lift depression in many people. Pets are very often a lifeline for people who suffer with anxiety and depression. Their furry friend is always there for them by their side, they don’t answer back or say mean things, they don’t judge you if you want to spend the day in your pyjamas, in fact they’d probably quite like the opportunity to snuggle up and sleep most of the day ?
A special kind of friendship
Living with a cat or dog provides humans with a special kind of friendship, a deep bond that supports each other. Daily routines are shared and feelings of loneliness are very much reduced or are even eliminated, again helping to lift your mood and improving mental health. Owning a dog in particular is great for improving and maintaining social relationships as dog walks often bring about conversations with other dog owners further diminishing any feelings of isolation. The companionship pets provide has also been shown to reduce stress, which in turn is thought to reduce blood pressure, cholesterol and the risk of heart disease.
Fetch the lead
Owning a dog is great for your physical as well as mental health as all those dog walks together get you out and about in the fresh air, which is a great mood lifter. The walking is also good for both yours and your dog’s heart and circulatory health as well as helping keep your weight down, which is always a good thing ?
Purrrfect cuddle buddy
Stroking a purring cat is known to have a calming influence on humans, reducing levels of stress and anxiety, which is also going to lead to improvements in mental health and happiness.
Mental Health Foundation conducted a study in 2011 with Cats Protection League where half of those surveyed considered themselves as having a mental health problem of some sort. 87% of those surveyed who owned a cat said they believed it had a positive impact on their wellbeing. The survey also found 76% of those questioned said they felt much more able to cope with everyday life thanks to the company of their cat(s). Other interesting findings from this survey included half of cat owners stated the companionship their cat provided was most helpful, while a third said stroking their cat was very calming.
We learnt some of the above whilst researching resources like Mental Health Foundation, Axa PPP Healthcare as well as our own experiences and knowledge of owning a pet. Lisa, Founder of Cheeky Little Prints used to be a Veterinary Nurse many years ago ?