The mental health benefits of owning a pet
As if being a pet parent wasn’t rewarding enough, it comes with some amazing health benefits!
Pets are proven to reduce stress and anxiety, ease loneliness, relieve depression and even improve heart health.
That’s probably why I have six of them (well that and they’re an occupational hazard). I really couldn’t imagine life without my little family of dogs and cats.
As I type this, I am surrounded by them. Ivy snoozing next to me, little Wilbur curled up on my lap and Dexter’s big fluffy head on my feet.
My legs may be dead and I'm slightly uncomfortable but I’m happy and I wouldn’t change it for the world!
There’s been a lot of research into the mental and physical health benefits of pet ownership.
Studies have revealed that:
- Pet parents have lower blood pressure in stressful situations than non-pet owners.
- People who own pets are less likely to suffer from depression than those without pets.
- Playing with your furry friend increases the levels of serotonin and dopamine in the body, which promote a sense of calm and relaxation.
- Pet parents have lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels (heart disease indicators) than those without pets.
- The PDSA Paw Report 2023 shows that 94% of pet owners say owning a pet makes them happy and 87% of pet owners say owning a pet makes them mentally healthier.
- Heart attack patients who are pet owners survive longer than those without.
- Pet parents aged 65 and older make 30% fewer visits to their doctors than those without pets.
How amazing is all that? We also know that pets can help with certain lifestyle changes which are great for our mental health and wellbeing.
My favourite time of the day is walking the dogs. I love it. It’s my time to relax and enjoy the peace and lovely views.
Taking your dog for a walk, hike or run is a fantastic way to fit exercise into your day. And it’s free, unlike the gym!
Thanks to cat-friendly backpacks and harnesses, you can safely enjoy the great outdoors with your feline friends too!
Exercise is essential for your pet’s mental and physical health, and it also strengthens the bond between you and your best bud!
Being active also releases chemicals in your brain that make you feel good, help you concentrate, boost self-esteem and sleep well.
Several studies have even linked dog ownership to losing weight! It’s a win-win for everypawdy!
Isolation and loneliness can lead to depression. Caring for a pet gives you a sense of purpose and connection.
Talking to your cat or dog throughout the day may also help you work through any troubles that you have. And don’t listen to what anyone says, we all talk to our pets, just ask any pet parent!
What beats coming home to a wagging tail, an excited puppy, or a purring cat desperate for your attention?
I always spend five minutes fussing over my pets when I come home and smothering them in kisses and cuddles! It’s nice to be loved and give love!
Making new pals
Outwalking with your dog is a fantastic way to meet and chat with new people.
And with the rise of pet-friendly places, it’s easier than ever before to connect with other like-minded pawrents.
Getting involved in dog training classes or attending local pet events are other goods way to make new friends. Furry and human!
And if you aren’t able to have a pet now, there are plenty of cat cafés and activities like puppy yoga to get your fluffy fix!
Having a pet to care for and love is proven to help reduce anxiety because they provide comfort.
Pets can also help you build confidence by pushing you out of your comfort zone and getting you out of the house!
Pets generally tend to be goofy, they encourage playfulness and can make you laugh constantly.
They live in the moment and put things into perspective which can help you appreciate the joy in the everyday!
Caring for your companion adds structure to your day. Many pets, dogs, in particular, require a regular feeding and exercise routine.
Sticking to a consistent, daily schedule will help keep your pet calm and balanced. And same goes for us humans.
Small daily routines can provide positive structure to your day and help you better manage your well-being and mental health.
Whether we’re stressed or unwell, once we take on the responsibility of being a pet parent, our moods don't matter!
Once you hear the meows coming from the hallway or see the puppy eyes at your bedside, it’s go time!
Fluffy little stress balls
Pets provide sensory relief. No really! Touch and movement are two healthy ways to quickly manage stress and pets fulfill this need.
Cuddling, stroking and hugging your beloved pet can rapidly calm and soothe you when you’re feeling stressed or anxious.
Important things to consider before you commit to a pet
Being a pet owner is a big responsibility that shouldn’t be entered into lightly. It’s important to think of the mental health and welfare of the animal, as well as yourself.
If you are struggling with your mental health, sadly adding a pet to your life won’t magically fix that.
Being a pet owner has many benefits and can enhance the lives of people who truly love animals and have the means to look after them. But it’s also a lot of work!
You need to consider if you have the time, money, patience and love to keep a pet happy and healthy.
And there are many important things you need to ask yourself beforehand.
Can you cope with scooping up poop every day? Can you afford pet insurance? Or unexpected trips to the vet in case of emergency?
I wholeheartedly recommend taking some time to research a suitable pet for your lifestyle as well as your budget before committing.
If you work long hours, it may be more realistic to consider a cat rather than a dog.
It is recommended for dogs not be left for more than 4-5 hours at a time. Cats are more independent and sleep for around 20 hours a day!
Because of this, cats can adjust to your routine if you work long hours.
Other things you must consider before becoming a pet owner:
Pets are expensive
Vet visits, pet food, microchipping, grooming, toys, bedding and other general expenses can easily amount up.
If you’re not working or on a limited budget, it may be difficult to cope with the expense of pet ownership. More so now than ever in the current cost of living crisis.
And what about pet insurance? Can you afford to cover a big, unexpected vet bill yourself If something happens to your pet?
Unless you have a savings account specifically for vet bills, you may want to consider taking out an affordable pet insurance policy.
There are plenty of good dog insurance, cat insurance and multi-pet insurance providers out there.
Some are more expensive than others depending on what you want your pet to be covered for.
Make sure you shop around and find the best one for your furry family member and your financial situation!
Pets are time-consuming
Dogs can only be left alone for a limited time, which means being a pet owner can take away from your social time!
If your dog is trained, you can take them with you to visit friends, run errands or for a coffee.
But you can say so long to the days of spontaneous social activities! You can’t just pack up and leave for a spur-of-the-moment trip without arranging pet care first.
Pets require planning
If you’re going on holiday or travelling for business, do you have friends or family who can look after your pet?
Or would you need to take them along with you? If so, you’d need to research how and if you can do that.
You’ll need to get certain vaccinations and paperwork from the vet if you’re heading out of the country.
Similarly, if you’re looking to drive or take public transport, can you realistically bring your pet along with you?
Would they be able to stay in the accommodation and would you have the time to devote to them on your trip?
If not, you would need to find a suitable kennel, cattery or pet sitter.
Dedicate plenty of time to research, always look at reviews and ask for recommendations to find a safe place for your pet to stay.
Pets are a long-term commitment
As a rule of thumb, the smaller the creature the shorter the life span.
Birds, hamsters, rabbits etc can live 5-10 years with dogs and cats living up to 10-20 years.
Pets can be destructive
Any pet can have the odd accident at home, no matter how well-behaved or trained. And if you are getting a puppy or kitten, you should expect those accidents to be much more frequent!
Depending on the breed and age, some pets are notoriously more difficult to housebreak and train
Many cats love to claw at the couch and shred upholstery and most dogs love to steal things to chew.
Dedicating time to training can help eradicate any negative and destructive behaviour.
Just be sure not to leave your pet alone in the house without exercise or mental stimulation for long periods of time. This is when most of the damage gets done!
Death of a pet
I know, it’s not something you want to think about, but our beloved pets do have a short lifespan.
Usually, you will be their whole life, which is so beautiful, but also, we must consider the impact on our mental health when the inevitable occurs.
Our vet nurses offer great bereavement counselling if you are struggling with the death of a pet.
They can advise you on the best ways to cope and help you come to terms with the devastating loss.
If you don’t have the money, time or ability to be a full-time pet parent, there are still ways you can experience the health and mood-boosting benefits of pets!
You can ask to walk a neighbour's dog, volunteer at your local animal shelter or you can use Borrow My Doggy. Even short periods spent with a cat or dog can greatly benefit both you and the animal.
Most animal shelters or rescues welcome volunteers to help walk and care for the pets.
You’ll not only be helping yourself but also exercising and socialising the animals which will make them easier to adopt!
If you’ve considered everything and still want to become a pet owner, we recommend that you adopt and don’t shop.
If you’ve visited your local rescues and sanctuaries and still haven’t found a suitable pet for your household, try Petify!
Petify is the UK's ethical advertising website for pet sales, studs and adoption.
They take animal welfare seriously and follow PAAG (Pet Advertising Advisory Group) and Government Animal Welfare standards.
They are fighting the good fight against puppy farming and strictly follow and advocate Lucy's Law.
By using the Petify website and app, you can make sure pets stay protected from poor breeding and care practices.
If you're thinking of adding a new member to your furr fam, Petify is only the platform you can truly trust.