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The psychological benefits of having a pet

Animal Behaviourist - Pet Education Trust

Pets are very supportive, and very beneficial for our psychological wellbeing. Common claims include; decreased feelings of loneliness, a decrease in stress and anxiety, and even increased opportunities for social interaction. According to Cardiovascular Reactivity and the Presence of Pets, Friends, and Spouses: The Truth About Cats and Dogs (Allen 2002): Pet owners had the lowest physiological response to stress when their pets were present.

Celebrities and their pets

Everyone can benefit from a nice cuddle from a dog, or stroking a cat, even celebrities. Jennifer Anniston is a great example, she famously adored her pet dog ‘Norman’ who tragically passed away earlier this year due to old age. A source revealed to magazines around the time Norman started falling ill:

“Norman has been Jennifer’s constant companion during all her emotional upheavals, but he suffers from aching joints and stiffness. Jennifer doesn’t want to put him on medication just yet, so she has opted for doggy spa treatments from a licensed vet technician.”

The 42 year old actress, who is known as the singleton of Hollywood after a series of failed romances since her marriage to Brad Pitt broke down in 2005, has stated that she wished that men shared some of the same characteristics as Norman.

She said:

“It wouldn’t be bad if, when a man comes home, he’d run to his woman with his tail wagging. This sort of excitement is something I’ve always missed in a man to be honest.”

What about you and your pet?

Having a pet may be doing more for your psychological health than you may think, yes you may not be chased around by the paparazzi all day, but you may be juggling a hectic lifestyle and in need of some form of release. Below are a few pointers as to just how precious they are to us:

They help us adjust to serious illness and death

Children often turn to their pet for comfort if a friend or family member dies or leaves the family. Grieving adults who did not have a close source of human support were also found to have less depression if they had a pet.

You will be less anxious and feel safer

You will feel more relaxed and your everyday stresses will be reduced

Pets can help us relax and focus our attention away from our problems and worries. We do not even need physical contact to appreciate this. Watching fish in an aquarium, or the activity of birds can be very soothing. Of course many of us with dogs and cats find ourselves absent-mindedly petting them, which is relaxing for both us and the pet.

You can have physical contact

The ability to have something to touch and pet is very important. More and more studies show how important touch is to our physical and emotional health.

They brighten up the day

Pets decrease our feelings of loneliness and isolation by providing companionship to all generations.

You will feel more apt to smile, talk, reach out to people and objects, be attentive and alert, and experience a greater sense of well-being and less depression if animals are present.

You will have something to care for

Everyone needs to feel needed and have something to care for. Many elderly citizens or people living alone will tell you their pet gives them a reason for living.

They are always there for you

Pets provide some consistency to our lives. Caring for a pet can significantly affect our routine and gives us something to do and look forward to each day. People may come and go, but our pets are always there.

One man and his dog

One brave man, called Phill Thomas, Lancashire shares his story of just how important his canine friend is to him.

“I rescued my dog in 2009 from Wales where he had been badly beaten; he had a broken jaw and was in very bad shape. I spent 12 months rehabilitating him. I now take him to companion dog shows where he has won a lot of rescue classes, he is my best friend. I suffer with health problems; I am in a wheelchair, and suffer from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) from when I was in the army. Me and Chi work together as a team. He keeps me going and I keep him going. I am under a mental health team, and they are amazed at how much Chi helps me. I think he is one of the nicest dogs I have ever owned.”

How can you help your furry friend?

Animals are just like us. They have a lot of normal requirements like:

  • Giving them the love and attention they deserve
  • Making sure they get enough exercise
  • Making sure their diet is as good as can be
  • Taking them to the vets if sense something is wrong
  • Making sure their environment is nice and clean
  • Having a warm place to sleep

Even if you don’t have a pet yourself, why not help others by donating your time to fundraising, or by donating to an organisation like ours.

We are serious about animal welfare and help pet owners, animal shelters and much more on an international scale. On our website you can have a look at whom we’ve helped, and different ways in which you can help too.

“Animals are so underrated, and in some cases unfortunately mistreated. People from all walks of life, from your pensioner, to your school kid, to a celebrity and to someone who has served for our country, you can all receive the love and emotional support that an animal brings into our lives. Animals may not have a voice, but they do listen, and sometimes they need someone to listen to them and to give them a voice,” says Andrea Gamby-Boulger co-director of Wetnose Animal Aid.

A love tip for the ladies

Pets are great for making love connections. Forget Internet matchmaking – a pet is a natural conversation starter.

This especially helps ease people out of social isolation or shyness.

by Jessica Suter
Head of PR for Wetnose Animal Aid
and founder of The Change PR (


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