Pets and Mental health

By: Tina Viljoen – Social Worker

According to my experience nothing compares to the joy of coming home to a loyal companion. And I’m not only talking about my husband 😊 but also my 2 dogs and 4 cats who count as family members as well. The unconditional love of a pet can do more than keep you company. Since the bond between humans and animals is very powerful the positive correlation between pets and mental health is undeniable.

Scientific studies have proven the benefits of having a dog or a cat. Animals not only help with depression, anxiety or stress, but also provide joy, companionship and ease loneliness in a world where humanity and making time for each other seems to get lost in our hectic everyday life. Studies around pets and mental health show that interacting with pets lowers our stress hormones and these benefits can occur after just five minutes of interacting with a pet. Furthermore, it raises our levels of hormones that calm and relax the nervous system.

Our pets also make us feel needed and the act of caretaking gives us a sense of purpose and meaning. They need to be taken care of every day and as a result, they keep us build healthy habits and routines, e.g. getting up in the morning to feed them or being physically active and spending time in nature by taking your dog for a walk.

Pets can also help you to become more mindful and to enjoy and appreciate the present moment because they live now and don’t worry about what happened yesterday or what might happen tomorrow.

So, next time you feel lonely, stressed or depressed think of making time to interact with your pet, give it a big cuddle, lie down with your cat and listen to the purr or take your dog out into nature.

If you don’t have pets yet but thinking of adding a loyal furry family member, please consider adopting a cat or dog from your local SPCA. I can guarantee you they will show you their gratitude forever.

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