It’s Mental Health Awareness Week this week, all the more pertinent this year given the stresses of the last 14 months. For many of us, our pets have been a real lifeline, giving us comfort and a focus in unpredictable times and helping makes things that little bit better. Indeed, in survey results published by Vet Times last Autumn, of over 5000 pet owners interviewed, 91% of dog owners, 89% of cat owners and 86% of owners of other pet species felt their animals had helped them cope with the Covid-19 situation.
There’s no denying our pets are a huge ongoing support to us. Here are just a few examples of how they help improve our mental health :
- Comfort: loyal and affectionate, pets provide us with familiarity, stability and much valued companionship
- Stress-reduction: playing with and petting our four-legged friends reduces cortisol levels associated with stress and anxiety, and raises levels of dopamine and serotonin, or ‘happiness hormones’
- Purpose: pets give us a focus to our day and make us feel needed. They encourage healthy habits, such as exercising for dog and horse owners, and getting outside, they can encourage us to improve our self care and instigate routine as all pets needs feeding and looking after.
- Social interaction: around 50% of UK households own a pet, so talking about your 4 legged friend can be a great conversation starter. Walking a dog makes you more likely to stop and have a conversation with other dog walkers on route and make new connections
- Being in the present: pets live in the moment, and playing and interacting with your pet can help you be more mindful about enjoying the present moment
- Unconditional love: pets don’t judge us. Dogs and cats in particular show us unconditional love, are happy to see us, and want to spend time with us.
In short, pets make our lives more meaningful, healthier, calmer and happier. What amazing mood-boosting best friends!
We’d love to see photos of your four-legged happiness champions!