By guest writer ‘Baba’
The benefits of having a pet are commonly recognised, but did you know that over 60% of households in the UK now include the patter of four-legged feline and canine friends?
We all need love and companionship, so you might recognise some of the benefits listed below – but you might be surprised at the extent to which having a pet can impact on your well-being…. (spoiler alert – it’s exciting news for people struggling with conditions as wide ranging as anxiety, depression, Alzheimer’s, autism, and obesity!)
Pets encourage playfulness, and the sheer joy of having fun in the moment
Have you ever noticed that when you’re around animals you feel like a kid again? This is because pets do not think about the past or future! They usually just live in the moment and actually help you find your inner child, this is why you see pet owners get excited over little things their pet does.
‘Pepe is an irascible cockatoo. I’m not sure where he got his Scottish accent from, but whoever trained him, taught him some hilarious phrases. His dry wit ensures no one is serious or bored for too long.’
“Just stroking my cat makes me feel better, having a little friend running around the house just keeps you from feeling lonely.”
Pets encourage self-care (exercise and routines)
Many pets, require a regular feeding and exercise schedule. Having a consistent routine keeps an animal healthy and it can work for you, too. Pets encourage playfulness, and exercise, which can help boost your immune system and increase your energy
‘I was dreading an ‘empty nest’, so got a dog after my youngest son left home. Bodie, my cocker spaniel has brought me so much joy – and I’ve lost three stones in weight because of all the walks we go on together!
No matter your mood; depressed, anxious, or stressed; one look or noise from your pet will have you out of bed to feed, exercise, and care for them. This sense of routine and responsibility is also healthy for your mental health.
Pets are endless sources of love, devotion and loyalty
Numerous pet owners find comfort in their pet’s loyalty, this sense of connection can help families bond in a deeper level. Pets tend to also live in the moment and do not worry about the past or future. Their carefree personality tends to help people who are down because of this people become more mindful and appreciate the joy of the present.
“Having a pet has had a positive affect on the whole family. It’s a nice distraction and it is also nice to have someone that is loyal to you, always.”
Individuals who have fewer human relationships or who just feel alone often report even more benefits from feline companionship during difficult times.
“It is like having someone there who is always going to love you unconditionally.’
Pets can help alleviate serious health conditions
“My canaries are loving and caring and just chill with me. They really help me with my day. When I look at them or be with them, I instantly feel happy. When I was depressed, I would often look at my birds and get a sense that they knew what I was going through….”
Studies show that companionship can help prevent illness and even add years to your life, while isolation and loneliness can trigger symptoms of depression and anxiety, having a pet can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine, which can calm and relax people suffering from mental illness.
If you are struggling with a health condition, you might think that the last thing you need is yet another responsibility, but caring for an animal can also help make you feel needed and wanted, and take the focus away from some day-to-day issues.
‘You cannot forget to feed your pet, I would have to force myself to get out of bed so that he is fed and even when I do not feel like getting up, I end up getting out of bed so that I can pet him or play with him’
Pets can provide a source of positive, nonverbal communication, interacting with animals has been shown to decrease levels of cortisol (a stress-related hormone) and pet owners also have lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels (indicators of heart disease) than those without pets. People who suffer with Alzheimer’s find it hard to deal with stress.
“Research at the University of California at Davis concluded that Alzheimer’s patients suffer less stress and have fewer anxious outbursts if there is a dog or cat in the home. The playful interaction and gentle touch from a well-trained, docile animal can help soothe an Alzheimer’s patient and decrease aggressive behaviour.”
Carers of people with Alzheimer’s can also benefit by having a pet was this may reduce their stress levels. Owning a cat can not only reduce stress but also prevent cardiovascular diseases and there are endless studies that show different healing benefits of cats. The mere presence of cats in our lives is proven to help us recover more quickly from PTSD, surgery, and other emotional events.
In fact, a cat purring is one of the most comforting sounds in the world and while it certainly means your cat is happy and comfortable, the sound has also been long associated with a therapeutic healing ability in human bones and muscle. A cat’s purr creates vibrations at a frequency of 20-140 HZ, and studies have shown that frequencies in the 18-35 HZ range have a positive effect on joint mobility after injury, scientists have begun talking about how the cat noise could help humans!
Some interesting facts about having pets… did you know….:
- The life expectancy for U.K. in 2022 was 81.65 years. Studies have shown pet owners over age 65 make 30 percent fewer visits to their doctors than those without pets.
- Studies have found that owning a cat can lower your stress levels, which in turn will have a knock-on effect on your risk of cardiovascular disease. Owning a cat can lower one’s risk of various heart diseases, including stroke, by around 30 percent.
- 17 different research papers by academics at the Universities of Manchester, Southampton and Liverpool, concluded that pets can help people manage their long-term mental health conditions.