How Pets Can Benefit Your Mental Health

Updated: Jul 10, 2020

Pets are awesome, aren’t they? Whether you have a cute little ball of fluff or big bounding dog, all pets can be great fun and beneficial to your mental health. In general terms, they can reduce anxiety, stress as well as help people with mental illnesses through acting as a source of motivation and companionship.

Small animals including rabbits and guinea pigs are not only adorable, but also an amazing friend to cuddle after a challenging day. Simply stroking or playing with a pet can be calming and enables you to relax, also the very act of caring for your pet can give you a sense of achievement and purpose. Many parents use small pets as a way to teach responsibility to small children, and similarly they can give responsibility to adults or those going through mental illness as an extra encouragement to keep going.

Larger animals, such as dogs and cats can also be beneficial to good mental health. Dogs especially have been found to be a motivator for people with depression. Part of depression and other mental illnesses, can be to feel the need to be socially withdrawn, stay indoors and to lack the desire to do much. Dogs can be helpful in this situation, as they require regular walking and caring for, and so they encourage the owner to go outside to walk them therefore helping to reduce the symptoms of depression. Also, dogs can give us a better appreciation of the planet – People tend to walk their dog either in the early morning or in the evening, and so it’s often quieter and more peaceful at these times of the day so both dog and owner can experience nature better. What’s more, they give a great opportunity to meet other dog-walkers while out and about, and thus can help people to socialise and meet new people – also reducing the symptoms of some mental illnesses, such as social withdrawal.

Many people have also found cats to be a great friend to have around the house. Either for quality cuddle time after a stressful day at work, or to play a quick game – also to watch them get out of some tricky situations around the house! They can be helpful too in reducing loneliness, as pets can be an amazing companion to come home to and can give additional security if you live alone. It’s also thought that pets and animals can help those living with dementia or Alzheimer’s as a friend to stroke and socialise with.

Although it’s not only household pets that can be beneficial, animals such as horses can also be a great help for people. People can find caring for horses relaxing through brushing them regularly, helping to keep their stable clean and even riding them. Teaching a horse how to get used to a saddle or person on its back, or training them to become better jumpers can also be a challenging yet rewarding way to spend your time. All pets can also be helpful in distracting your mind from unwanted or negative thoughts, as instead you can focus your energy on caring and interacting with your pet.

I’d highly recommend a furry (or not!) friend to those with mental illnesses as they can be greatly beneficial in reducing the symptoms and an amazing friend to come home to. I certainly couldn’t imagine life without my little dog. I hope you enjoyed this post today, and that you have a lovely week ahead of you!

Take care, Sophie x

As always, please bear in mind that I am not a mental health professional or any other type of professional, this is a hobby for me and is for informational purposes only and shouldn’t be seen as any kind of advice. I am not liable for any consequences as a result of this information and if readers rely on any of the information on my blog, it is at their own risk. I cannot confirm that all information is correct, accurate or reliable. The information is true to the best of my knowledge, yet there may be omissions, errors or mistakes. This information isn’t intended as a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you have, or believe to have, a mental illness, please contact a mental health professional.

Note: This isn't my dog (unfortunately!). This picture belongs to Wix.

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