Mental Health and our PetsMarie O'Callaghan
As of 2016, 61% of households in Ireland have at least one pet, with a significant increase during the lockdown. Therefore, there is no wonder that research has spent years trying to uncover the secret of the bond we share with our partners from the animal kingdom. Research has shown that having a pet has positive effects on a person’s mental health. There are many reasons for this however, the most prominent ones are companionship; sense of purpose; and stimulating activities. There is no doubt that each pet owner loves their companion and wants to ensure a long healthy and full life for their pet. But did you know that by trying to achieve this, you, as a pet owner also benefit?
It is common knowledge that a dog is a man’s best friend, and this has been true for over 10,000 years since the first dog was domesticated. Ever since then we have been expanding the list of our companions. Pets have become an integral part of our lives and our families. We celebrate their birthdays, they help us celebrate ours, we celebrate Christmas together and we worry about their wellbeing. Along with the treats, we love to spoil our pets with toys such as the KONGs, squiggles and various fetch balls.
But did you know that even just stroking your pet can reduce your blood pressure? Afterall, they are not here to judge us or disagree but rather to be our friends and be a part of our social support system. Science agrees that even after suffering a heart attack, people with pets had a higher chance of survival than the ones without. In other words, a pet can be an integral part of managing your stress, lowering your blood pressure and maintaining positive mental health.
Owning a pet is of course a lot of responsibility and it is a perfect opportunity for a child to learn some. Having a pet to take care of gives us a sense of order and purpose in life. This is called ontological security. It is very important for children to develop this sense of security as it gives them motivation to step away from the PlayStation because there is someone who depends on them to feed them, clean them and play with them. However, ontological security does not stop there. We all need that little extra push from time to time to get out of bed and our pets are there to motivate us. This is art of the reason why pet owners report higher self-esteem; boosted ambition; and lower levels of loneliness.
We, pet owners, also tend to be in a better physical condition. This is because our pets encourage us to exercise and move whether it is just cleaning up after them with your Beco degradable bags or going for a 10km walk on his new Flexi Lead. This also contributes to higher self-esteem, lower blood pressure and with the release of endorphins, so we feel overall happier.
So, I think we should all reward our pets with treat for all that they do for us, just by being themselves.