Pets Benefit Our Mental Health
by Bryan Woods
April is National Pet Month. Running from 1st April to 1st May, it is a time to celebrate our four-legged friends and all the benefits that they bring to us.
Take for example PAT (Pets As Therapy) dogs. These dogs are taken into schools, hospitals, and care homes, where they provide valuable interactions with people.
Pets are also important for our mental health. One survey has found that 74% of pet owners reported mental health improvements from pet ownership.
A pet can help to reduce anxiety. Just stroking an animal is soothing. It gives a boost to our sense of well-being. Pets also provide warmth and companionship. This is particularly important for people who live alone. A pet can help to combat the loneliness that may lead to mental health issues.
Owning a pet can also give an added purpose to our day. If we are responsible for exercising an animal, it helps to increase our physical activity. It can also lead us to interact with other people. This in its turn is good for our mental health.
When owning a pet, we are responsible for its welfare. Choosing the right type of pet is an important consideration. So too is the ability to exercise a pet, and to provide money for food and vet bills. Animals also need our time. They need to feel loved and wanted.
For various reasons we are not all able to own a pet. However, there are other options available. One is to spend time with pets that belong to friends, relatives or neighbours. Another is to volunteer at a local animal rescue centre. Pets there need to be exercised and cared for too.
The Cinnamon Trust is another possibility for those wishing to volunteer. This charity helps elderly and terminally ill people and their dogs. Volunteers are often needed to exercise a dog or to offer short-term foster care.
Horses can also provide valuable therapy. This is recognised at Fortune College, (part of the Fortune Centre of Riding Therapy), which is based at Avon Tyrrell in the New Forest National Park. It is a specialist college for young people aged 16 to 25, who have learning difficulties and/or disabilities – including attachment difficulties and disorders.
Utilising two other nearby sites, the aim at Fortune College is to develop greater independence and life skills through interaction with horses.
Pets bring great joy and happiness to us. They enrich our lives. The world would be a dull place without them.