Anyone with a four-legged friend at home will understand how much happiness pets bring to our lives. Whether it’s the energetic, joyful greeting of your dog when you when you walk in the door or snuggling up on the lounge with your cat, there is nothing that compares to the unconditional love shown to us by our pets.
Now that we are all spending so much more time at home, it’s more important than ever to appreciate the companionship that pets provide, especially for those who live alone. But did you know having a pet has proven health and wellbeing benefits as well? Science has proven a range of psychological and physiological benefits associated with pet ownership.
Here are 5 of those benefits:
Companionship is probably the most obvious benefit of pet ownership but it is worth stressing, particularly at this time, when social distancing rules have taken us away from many of the people we love. If you have an elderly relative who lives alone, consider talking to them about the possibility of adopting or fostering a pet from an animal shelter for company. Naturally pet ownership or fostering isn’t right for everyone, and you should think very carefully through the decision to get a pet for an elderly relative, as they need to have the capacity to care for it. But if the situation allows for it, the right pet could help shift your elderly relative’s focus from their worries and loneliness to caring for their new four-legged friend. The same is true for anyone. Pets make wonderful companions.
- Reduced stress and anxiety
Because pets live in the moment and are not worried about the future they can help encourage you to become more present and mindful, reducing the time you spend worrying about what might happen in the future. Research has found that patting a dog or cat can even improve risk factors caused by stress such as helping to decrease blood pressure and increase your serotonin and dopamine – hormones that make you feel happy and calm. Studies have even shown that having a pet, especially a dog, is probably associated with a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease. Click here to learn more.
- They provide structure and routine
Working from home or not having work may be causing you to miss the routine and structure you had before. Having a pet can help bring that sense of routine back into your life, including getting out of bed at a reasonable time each day. All pets need to be fed at regular times daily but if you have a dog, it will provide added structure and routine due to their need for daily exercise as well, which is good for you too!
- Physical contact/touch
Social distancing means many people are missing out on physical contact with others. Having a pet can fulfil that need for touch through pats and cuddles, as you don’t have to practice social distancing with them.
- A reason to get some fresh air, sunshine and exercise
With gyms and other indoor sports centres closed, the only place to exercise right now is at home or outdoors. Furthermore, many people are spending more time indoors than they should, meaning they are missing out on Vitamin D from the sun and fresh air, as well as exercise. Having a dog that requires a daily walk is the perfect excuse to get up off the couch, grab the lead and go for a walk or a run. And now with the City of Melville lighting up 5 of our local parks for exercise and dog-walking after hours, there is no excuse not to fit a walk in.
So it’s safe to say that having a pet during the COVID-19 pandemic (or any time for that matter) is an excellent strategy towards staying well, physically and mentally.