Pets transform our lives in more ways than one. Here’s why.

In case you didn’t know it’s National Pet Month, a time to celebrate pet ownership and spread the word about all the amazing benefits pets can bring to our lives.

Most pet owners understand the joy they can bring to our homes, with many people feeling a house is only a home with a pet, but did you know that as well as offering companionship, they are great for our mental health and wellbeing and can even help people live more independently?

To help celebrate National Pet Month, we take a look at how pets transform our lives in more ways than one.

Encourage us to be more active

“Some of our greatest historical and artistic treasures we place with curators in museums; others we take for walks.” Roger Caras, American Activist

One of the great things about owning a dog is, come rain or shine, it forces you to go for a walk every day.  In fact, studies show dog owners are much more likely to meet daily exercise guidelines than people who don’t have dogs.

And of course, any exercise with a pet, whether it’s walking your dog, actively playing with your cat or playing hide-and-seek with your rabbit helps keep them fit and healthy while deepening the bond between you.

Another bonus of ‘walkies’ is it also gives you chance to meet new people, which can be a massive positive for people who live on their own. Although, it can be a little bit annoying when you are stopped every few minutes just to find people want to talk to your dog, rather than you!

Improve our health and wellbeing

“You cannot look at a sleeping cat and feel tense.” Jane Pauley, American Journalist

Lower blood pressure, reduced anxiety, boosted immunity. Over the years, various studies have shown that having a pet has a positive impact on our health. In fact, research suggests that heart attack patients with pets survive longer than those without a pet and pet owners make fewer visits to the doctor and take less medication.

But when you think about it, it’s not that surprising. Pets bring unconditional love into our lives and no matter what mood you are in, won’t judge or criticise. Instead, they provide a sense of calm and reassurance with 93.7% of cat owners saying owning a cat helps their mental health.

And science backs this up. Playing with pets is shown to elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine which helps relax and calm the nervous system. And just 10 minutes stroking an animal has been proven to lower the heart rate and reduce the stress-hormone cortisol.

Probably most surprisingly is research shows children who have a pet are likely to have stronger immune systems, are less likely to develop allergies or asthma and are better able to fight off colds and the flu. Looks like all that pet hair does do some good after all!

Teach children valuable life lessons

“I asked a kid, ‘What is love?’ He answered, ‘Love is when a puppy licks your face,’ I laughed before he added, ‘even when you left him alone all day.’” Unknown

Pets can also be good for children, as not only do they teach them about responsibility, but they also provide them with comfort and support. Pets don’t judge, tell you what to do or tell you off (although cat owners might disagree!). This helps children feel more secure and confident, which in turn increases their sense of self-esteem improving their relationships with othersStudies even show that having a dog can help calm hyperactive or aggressive children.

Pets can also help with a child’s learning. Whether it’s teaching the perseverance that’s needed to teach a dog a new trick or helping them with their reading, (some children find it easier to read to pets as they don’t care if they get anything wrong!), pets of all shapes and sizes are good for a child’s development.

And, of course, having a pet also teaches them about death. While replacing a pet with a ‘lookalike’ may seem a good idea at the time, teaching children about the circle of life will help them cope with other challenges they will face in the future.   

Transform people’s lives

Support Dog, Dug“He’s a lovely big boy, very placid, very calm, who absolutely loves being with people and is already very good with children. We think he has all the attributes to make a wonderful autism assistance dog.” Bronte, on new Support Dog, Dug 

And if that wasn’t enough companion animals also provide support for disabled people and people with medical conditions.

On a recent photoshoot for a client, we were delighted to work with Support Dogs  and saw first-hand the remarkable work they do.

Support Dogs has been training dogs for adults and children with autism, epilepsy and other serious medical conditions since 1992. Many of their dogs were family pets whose owners, for various reasons, could no longer look after them, so not only do they help give the dogs a second chance but in a way that helps people too.

From teaching dogs to carry out specific tasks such as opening and closing doors, to reducing stress in social environments so a child with autism feels safe, their aim is to enable people to lead much more independent lives. Remarkably, some of their dogs are also trained to give up to a 55-minute warning prior to the onset of an epileptic seizure, so the client can find safety and be in control of their seizure.

And it’s not just dogs who are transforming lives. Cats, horses and even fish are now being used as therapy animals to help people with a variety of physical and mental issues. In fact, donkey assisted therapy is growing increasingly popular in care homes!

It’s amazing how much richer pets make our lives and if ever there was a reason to celebrate them, we think that would be it.