Having pets can support both physical and mental wellbeing, particularly for older people, people with significant health issues and those managing the impacts of disability.
Research has shown that owning a cat or a dog can reduce the effects of potentially stressful life events and enhance feelings of autonomy, competence and self-esteem. Pets can provide companionship, reduce stress, support you to be more active and provide a sense of purpose.
There has been a growing trend towards the use of animals, particularly dogs, to support people with:
- limited vision or hearing
- mobility loss or absence
- post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Here are some of the ways you can benefit from having a pet.
Pets can be affectionate, accepting, loyal, trusting and consistent. If you are feeling isolated, a pet can provide company, someone to talk to and help reduce loneliness.
We all feel stress at some time in our lives. Research shows that just patting a pet can ease stress and reduce your blood pressure. It can also help you to relax and practice mindfulness.
Provide a sense of purpose
A pet can provide you with a sense of purpose, giving you something other than yourself to focus on which can help to reduce anxiety and depression. If you have a pet, you are never alone and you are responsible for looking after them.
Keep you in a routine
Having a pet means you need to be organised. Most pets require a routine of feeding, cleaning and exercise. This can give you purpose and motivation which can help your self-esteem, wellbeing and mental health.
Get you more active
The most common pets such as dogs, cats and even rabbits require exercise to some extent. That means you are more likely to take the dog for a walk or spend time in the garden with the cat or rabbit. See the benefits of physical activity.
Increase opportunities for social interaction
Pets can create opportunities for social interaction, particularly dogs if you take them for regular walks or would normally be part of a club or training group. People are more likely to engage with others who are out and about, even in their front garden, with a pet than with a person who is walking on their own.