In celebration of the month of love, we want to highlight important family members who give us so much joy and unconditional love-our pets! Pets are more than just animals we take care of. Pets can also improve our mental health and wellness in so many ways. Research has shown that pet owners report reduced stress and anxiety and improved physical health. Having a pet is also a great opportunity to teach kids some essential skills that they can learn throughout their lives.
If you’ve ever fallen into a cat video-watching spiral, you know how uplifting it is to simply watch an animal. They live life in the moment without a care in the world. They don’t know what their plans are tomorrow and they don’t think about what happened yesterday. We can all learn a lot about mindfulness from our furry little friends. In one of my favorite books about mindfulness The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle states, “I have lived with several zen masters-all of them cats”.
In addition to being inspired by their carefree approach to life, there is so much more to gain from having an animal in your life. Animal companions offer numerous physical health benefits, which have been scientifically studied and connections discovered. Blood pressure and cholesterol can be reduced and resting heart rate lowered, which may also lead to a lower risk of heart disease. Having a pet, specifically a dog, can also encourage exercise, which is obviously a benefit to a person’s health. A study done in Germany found that owning a pet resulted in 24% fewer doctor visits.
Many of us also know from personal experience that pets can benefit our mental health as well.
This is my puppy, Olive. Cute, right? I adopted her three months ago from Animal Shelter Volunteers of Texas and I have officially become a “dog person”. She has been such a positive addition to my life in so many ways. Before adopting Olive, I practiced daily self-care habits to maintain my mental health, but since adopting Olive I have discovered how having a dog can enhance my self-care routine and increase feelings of love, optimism, and comfort.
I look forward to walking through my door at the end of a long day, knowing that Olive will greet me excitedly. I’m energized to take her for her daily walk, seeing how joyful she is just being with me outside. It’s comforting to have her by my side while I do mundane tasks such as sweeping the floor or folding my laundry. I’m constantly smiling at her cute little face and funny mannerisms.
Although I’m a new dog owner, I’ve been a pet owner for many years. I have two cats, Suzie Q and Luna (above), who are also an important part of my family. Is there anything more soothing than holding a warm, cuddly, purring cat? I don’t think so.
At BPC, we love our pets and cherish the bonds we have with our animals. For me, there is nothing more uplifting than looking at cute pictures of beloved pets, so hopefully these pictures from our team will warm your heart.
This is Brittani’s adorable fur baby, Pippin with her son. You can tell that they are best buddies!
This is Rodrigo’s golden retriever, Canelo. Rodrigo rescued him from Golden Beginnings golden retriever rescue.
These are Corey’s fur babies, Lucy and Dibs 🙂
Pets and Mental Health
There has been a recent increase in scientific studies looking at the link between mental health and pet ownership, but scientific evidence is still fairly limited. One study found that pet owners have more life satisfaction than people without pets. Studies have also shown reduced anxiety in people who own pets. Another study found that in stressful situations, petting an animal can significantly reduce feelings of anxiety.
According to The Human Animal Bond Research Institute, 74% of pet owners report mental health improvements from owning their pet. They also found the following mental health benefits.
- Reduced anxiety
- Reduced stress
- Reduce feelings of loneliness
- Improvement in mood
- Reduced tendency to focus negatively on self
- Aid in the management of long-term mental health problems
This video summarizes these benefits perfectly (and features a piano-playing cat).
Pets & Child Development
Having a pet can help children develop socially and emotionally as well. HABRI states that pets help children by:
- Improving social play and social communication
- Teaching them to express and understand non-verbal communication
- Increasing children’s feeling of being needed
- Increasing sense of achievement when caring for a pet
Getting a Pet
Needless to say, the decision to get a pet is not one to be taken lightly. Pets are a lot of work, expensive, and a long-term commitment. However if you are prepared for these challenges, adding an animal to your family can offer numerous mental and physical health benefits as well as a ton of love 🙂
As Houston area family & child counseling clinic, Brittani Persha Counseling has child behavior specialists and works to provide parents & child caregivers support throughout the therapy process. Whether you are looking for play therapy for a pre-schooler or mental health therapy for an elementary child with anxiety, we are here to help. Call today to talk about how our counselors can help your entire family!
And be sure to check back next week for our next blog about encouraging and enhancing a very important relationship in childhood-the sibling relationship!
Jacobs Bao, K. & Schreer, G. (2016). Pets and Happiness: Examining the Association Between Pet Ownership and Wellbeing. Anthrozoos, Vol. 29, Iss. 2.
Saunders, J., et al. ( 2017). Exploring the differences between pet and non-pet owners: Implications for human-animal interaction research and policy. PLoS One. 12(6): e0179494. Published online 2017 Jun 23. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0179494.