It’s no secret animals bring humans a great deal of joy. We take a look at the ways pets improve your health. Whether it’s your dog wagging its whole body with excitement when you come home, a cat acknowledging its human with a hearty ‘meow’ (or 10), or the bond between a horse and its rider, there’s much happiness to be gained from interacting with pets.
As well as pure joy, there are many ways pets improve your health. The RSPCA says we have one of the highest rates of pet ownership in the world.
“In fact our pets are such positive influences on our lives. One study found that Australian ownership of cats and dogs saved approximately $3.86 billion in health expenditure over one year,” it published.
House Call Doctors has written about this topic before in a piece about puppy therapy and the science behind it. This time we’re exploring it in more depth and looking at other ways pets improve our lives.
3 ways pets improve your health
Interacting with animals releases ‘feel-good’ hormones
Pets are great endorphin stimulants. Endorphins are naturally released by our brains and promote a sense of wellbeing. They’re the same hormones released when you exercise, that natural high you might feel after a good run.
Doctor Timothy Sharp from The Happiness Institute believes pets have a big place in our lives because they can positively contribute to our emotional state.
“While we’re cuddling, stroking and talking to our pets, scientific research has shown that our endorphins are being released and our heart rate and blood pressure are getting lowered,” Dr Sharp said in The Chronicle.
Pets help fulfill our need for affection
Humans need affection. Whether it’s snuggling with a partner, a hug or just a simple handshake, there’s something powerful about having physical contact with another human. Pets can help fulfil this need too.
Counsellor, and animal lover, Mimi O’Connor put it well in a piece published in the Huffington Post.
“The strong human-to-animal bond is powerfully therapeutic,” she wrote.
“Few things can compare to the spontaneous lift, the brightening of our spirits felt upon arriving back home at the end of a long day, to be greeted at the door by a loving and devoted pet.”
They give us purpose
“If you have a pet, you are never alone and you are also responsible for looking after them,” it published.
Reachout explains that having a structured routine is an important part of managing mental health conditions.
“A routine includes things like waking up and going to sleep at a similar time every day, exercising regularly and having three meals every day,” it published.
“Having a pet is another great way to add structure to your day; feed them at similar times every day and take them for daily walks.”
Don’t have your own pet? That’s OK
For those of us not lucky enough to have our own pets, there are other ways. Of course you could get some animal time with your friends and family’s pets but if that’s not an option, why not consider becoming a pet sitter? You could even earn some extra cash in exchange for some pet therapy.
Mad Paws is a start-up company, run by Australians, which connects pet owners with people in their local area who can look after them. If you pass the application process you can take care of people’s pets while they’re away on holidays.
RSPCA Queensland is also always looking for volunteers. The charity has a range of roles to fill, including foster carers if you’ve got the space for a temporary pet.