Four-legged friends can have a positive impact on our life in many ways, both mentally and physically. As we approach Blue Monday (16 January 2023), PDSA Vet Nurse, Nina Downing, shares her top five reasons why owning a pet is beneficial for our overall health.
“Spending quality time with your pet is beneficial to the wellbeing of both you and your four-legged family member. Humans and animals are social creatures, so this companionship can go a long way in reducing loneliness. Giving your furry friend love and attention, as well as receiving it in return, can significantly boost mental wellbeing – particularly for those who are socially isolated and may not see other people during the day.
“As well as being a great bonding activity, and essential for their own wellbeing, walking with your pooch can also be a social experience for you, allowing you to meet other dog walkers while out and about. Having a two-minute chat with neighbours as you pass each other in the park or conversing in a pet shop can make all the difference to your mood. These human connections are also easier to form, as you already have an established common interest – the love for your pets.
“For many, pets are calming figures in our lives and can offer solace in our darkest moments. In 2022, Google searches for emotional support dogs rose by 50% – indicative of the positive impact animals can have on our mental health. Whether you find comfort in petting your pup or confiding in your cat’s ear for a chat about your troubles, this stress relief plays an important part in maintaining wellbeing. In fact, research shows that spending just 10 minutes interacting with your pet each day can lower levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. As well as reducing stress, receiving an animal’s unconditional love without fear of judgement can help build self-confidence.
“Like people, most pets benefit from an established routine. From feeding and grooming, through to playing games and taking them out for a walk, the responsibility of caring for a pet can provide a clear day-to-day purpose and a reason to get out of bed in the morning. These actions also help establish structure in your day and are excellent habits for your own wellbeing, as well as your pets.
“Sometimes the monotony of everyday life can feel overwhelming, which is where our furry friends come into play – literally! A good game of tug, chase, or fetch can get you up, moving, and having fun, and brings lots of benefits for our pets as well. Activities like this not only encourage you to get more active but can help you feel less overwhelmed by stressors in your life, too. When you engage in regular play or exercise sessions, a chemical called dopamine – a feel-good hormone – is released by the body, helping you feel positive and motivated.
“Having a pet means they are reliant on you to meet their welfare needs and, for many, this responsibility can stimulate positive feelings such as a sense of belonging, added security, and being in control. The accountability and structure that comes with pet ownership can be highly motivating and encourage you to create the very best life for them and, in turn, for you! That’s why so many people make sure they are doing everything they can to give their pets a happy and comfortable life.”
PDSA relies on donations to deliver vital treatment to hundreds of thousands of pets across its 48 Pet Hospitals in the UK. To keep families together this winter, the charity is urgently calling on the public’s support more than ever to prevent vulnerable people having to make a truly heart-breaking decision. To find out more about PDSA’s vital work during the cost-of-living crisis, or to donate, visit www.pdsa.org.uk/costoflovingcrisis
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