Wellbeing

How Our Furry Friends Can Have a Positive Impact On Our Mental and Physical Health

With an estimated 9 million pet dogs and 8 million pet cats in the UK, it’s safe to say that we’re a nation of animal lovers. Having a pet can have a positive impact on our wellbeing and our physical health, so get your fur baby and listen up!

The benefits of pets for mental health

A gentle walk can be great to clear your mind and improve your mood. Having a dog gives you a reason to get up and go outside. So as well as giving you some fresh air and exercise, it’s a way to socialise with other dog owners, make some new friends and help reduce feeling of anxiety and depression.

Don’t worry if you don’t have a pooch of your own, you can always borrow one! Sign up to Borrow My Doggy or ask a friend.

dog walking to help chronic illness
PHOTO: DARIA SHEVTSOVA/PEXELS

But it’s not all about dogs! Mental Health Foundation conducted a study with Cats Protection.

Over 600 people took part with both cat and non-cat owners and half of the participants describing themselves as currently having a mental health problem. The results showed that 76% found ‘their cats helped them cope better with their everyday life.’

Snuggling up on the sofa with your pet can improve your mood

Don’t underestimate the power of unconditional love. Our pets are part of the family and give the best cuddles.

Did you know that stroking an animal for just 10 minutes can reduce the amount of cortisol (the stress hormone) in your body! It also releases pain relieving and feel good hormones: serotonin and dopamine.

cats beneficial for our wellbeing and mental health

PHOTO: ALEXANDER ANDREWS/UNSPLASH

Having a pet gives you purpose and helps tackle loneliness

Whether you live alone or not, having an animal around the house is the perfect companion. Your pet relies on you to take care of it and this sense of purpose can be really important for people, especially the elderly.

UK charity, Pets as Therapy, was set up to provide the community with access to animal interaction. Volunteers sign up to take their dog to places like hospitals, care homes and special needs schools for a therapeutic visit. Activities such as reading to dogs can help improve children’s reading skills and give them more confidence.

pet therapy mental health reading to dogs

PHOTO: RUBY SCHMANK/UNSPLASH

Want to get a pet?

So if you are thinking about getting pet, make sure you choose the right one to suit your lifestyle and chronic illness. We recommend using PDSA’s useful online ‘choose a pet’ quiz to find the right animal for you.

Are you are thinking of getting a pet but live in rented accommodation? Cats Protection have created the Purrfect Landlords campaign to encourage more landlords to allow pets in their properties. You can find lots of useful information and handy downloadable leaflets so you can feel ready to have a discussion with your landlord!

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