April is National Pet Month, a celebration of the joy that pets bring into people’s lives. Studies show that there are many benefits to having an animal companion:
Lower stress levels
Pets have been found to lower the levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, in our bodies, leading to a calmer approach to life. Studies show that if you own a pet, you’re also less likely to suffer from clinical depression.
In a recent study carried out at the University of Columbia, the researchers surveyed students before and after they spent time in a drop-in therapy dog session. Students were free to pet, cuddle and chat with canine companions during the sessions.
They filled out questionnaires immediately before and after the session, and again about 10 hours later.
“The results were remarkable. Participants reported significant reductions in stress as well as increased happiness and energy,” said Stanley Coren, of the University of British Columbia, “Even 10 hours later, students still reported slightly less negative emotion, feeling more supported, and feeling less stressed.”
Lower blood pressure
Petting your cat or dog helps your body release a relaxation hormone which can lower your blood pressure. Dog owners also walk more and due to the increased exercise, tend to have lower blood pressure than people who don't have dogs.
Better emotional health
A 2001 study, reported in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, found that pet owners have higher self-esteem, are more extroverted and less lonely, are less preoccupied, and less fearful of everyday challenges.
Helps you socialise
Going outside for a walk with your dog can lead to increased social interaction and a sense of connection with your community, which can improve your mood and reduce your stress levels.
Companionship and love
If you live alone, pets can help stave off loneliness and encourage feelings of responsibility as you’re caring for another being.
Pets As Therapy
Our charity of the year, Pets As Therapy, recognises the enormous benefits that contact with a pet can bring. Their volunteers, along with their temperament-assessed dogs and cats, make regular visits to nursing homes, hospitals, hospices and day care centres. The volunteers spend time with the patients, residents or visitors, allowing them to stroke the PAT pets and enjoy some companionship. For pet lovers who no longer live in their own home, or elderly people who attend day care centres but can no longer own a pet, interacting with a PAT pet can bring great comfort and joy.
The companionship and therapy that Pets As Therapy provides is being increasingly recognised by the medical profession. Volunteers are being asked to assist with stroke rehabilitation work and help people with phobias or mental health issues. Many schools are also now inviting Pets As Therapy dogs to spend time in the classroom and help children with reading difficulties.
Click here to find out more about how Cosyfeet is supporting Pets As Therapy.