Recent studies have highlighted the benefits of the human-animal bond. In particular, sharing your home and life with a pet can bring significant physical and mental health benefits. Pets, especially dogs and cats, can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. It helps combat loneliness, encourages exercise and promotes social interaction.
A pet can add real joy to your life.
This has never been more true than in 2020. Animal shelters say there has been a noticeable rise in the number of people looking to foster or rehome a pet during the pandemic. Owning a pet can be a wonderful thing but it is a huge commitment and considerable responsibility which must be carefully considered. In the right circumstances, caring for an animal has many positives. It can help children grow up more secure and active with a sense of responsibility. They also provide companionship for many older adults.
In terms of physical and mental health, studies have shown that pet owners are less likely to suffer from depression, have lower blood pressure in stressful situations and lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels (indicators of heart disease) than non-pet owners.
Studies have also shown:
Heart attack patients with pets survive longer than those without.
Pet owners over age 65 make 30% fewer visits to their doctors than those without pets.
Prisoners show long-term changes in their behaviour after interacting with pets, many of them experiencing mutual affection for the first time.
You don't have to own a pet to get some of these benefits. The Mental Health Foundation has reported that just stroking, sitting next to or playing with a pet relaxes and calms the mind.
They also carried out a study with Cats Protection in 2011 involving over 600 cat owners and non-cat owners. Half of them described themselves as currently having a mental health problem. The survey found that:
87% of people who owned a cat felt it had a positive impact on their wellbeing.
76% said they could cope with everyday life much better thanks to the company of their feline friends.
Half of the cat owners felt that their cat's presence and companionship was most helpful
A third of respondents described stroking a cat as a calming and helpful activity.
When we adopted Rose in January 2017, my anxiety and stress skyrocketed in the first few months when she destroyed two sofas and really struggled to settle in. This behaviour was not surprising given how terrible greyhounds are treated in their racing days. However, she did eventually settle in and she has been a huge help for my own mental health. If I ever feel overwhelmed or stressed out just a few minutes with Rose does me the power of good. She is literally the reason I get up in the morning (though when it is before 6 am I am not happy). And she gets me out and about far more than I would otherwise.
In August 2020, given that we were both working from home full time, we decided to adopt another rescue greyhound and welcomed Tom. He settled in pretty much straight away (we found out subsequent he had been treated far better than Rose before coming to us). Both really are part of the family. We are stopped regularly when we are out and about in Hebden Bridge with people wanting to say hello to them and give them treat or two. They are true companions and I can’t imagine life without them.
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