Regular dog walks can provide you with a daily exercise routine
Dogs, cats and other furry friends can provide a therapeutic boost for people. Sharing your home with a pet helps decrease feelings of loneliness while caring for another creature that depends on you, can also lend a sense of purpose, helping to reduce anxiety and depression.
Spending time with or petting a dog or cat increases levels of the hormone oxytocin, which promotes an overall sense of well-being. Petting or playing with an animal also increases the production of endorphins and promotes a feeling of relaxation, which can help to relieve symptoms of anxiety and even reduce pain.
Stroking a cat can promote a sense of well-being
Many animals will shower their owners with love and affection. Experiencing such unconditional love from a pet, when you may be feeling low, can be extremely beneficial.
Studies also indicate that pet owners require fewer visits to the doctor. Research carried out at Cambridge University found that owning a pet can improve our general health in less than a month, with pet owners reporting fewer minor ailments such as headaches, coughs and colds.
The health and social benefits are clear with some health professionals prescribing the adoption of a pet to combat depression, loneliness, inactivity and stress.
Researcher Dr Zhiqiang Feng says: ‘It is well known that pet ownership may help alleviate feelings of loneliness and depression in older people, but one area that has received little attention is the effect of dog ownership on the physical activity levels of the elderly.
‘Our results show that dog ownership is associated with an increased level of physical activity in the over-65s. On average, older dog owners were 12 per cent more active than their counterparts who did not own a dog.’
The health benefits of spending time with animals have become so well known that many hospitals and other rehabilitative centres have adopted pet therapy programs. Universities even work with therapy animals from organisations such as Pets As Therapy, our charity of the year, to help combat stress and anxiety amongst the students during exam time.
Click here to find out more about our amazing charity of the year, Pets As Therapy.