The UK is a pet-loving nation. The RSPCA estimates that there are 12 million households in the UK with a pet. This is 44 percent of all households and equates to roughly 51 million pets of all sorts, of which 9 million are dogs and 8 million are cats.
We know from all the animals we treat in our Ealing Veterinary clinic that Brits aren’t just pet owners. They love their pets and whether furry, feathery, or scaly, they are considered part of the family.
The relationship between owners and their pets is quite a phenomenon that is much studied, and consensus has been reached that there are some considerable benefits to being a pet owner.
Being a pet parent can positively impact your mental and physical health. Here’s how:
1. Improved Physical Health
Regular exercise along with a balanced diet are the cornerstones of health. Pets can help with keeping you active.
Dogs particularly require regular exercise. They should be walked a decent distance at least twice a day. This means that even if you aren’t motivated to work out for yourself, as a responsible pet owner you will still walk your furry friend. Because a walk rarely consists of a set distance at an even pace, you get an aerobic workout with changes in speed and tackling inclines or slopes that makes your heart work harder.
Plenty of research has concluded that owners are more likely to achieve fitness goals and get better quality exercise, so dog owners are fitter and healthier than people without pets.
But motivation or opportunity for exercise isn’t limited to dogs. Cats for example need stimulation by a daily playtime session and dragging a strong around the house or throwing a toy counts as physical activity for the kitty’s human owner.
There is also the theory that having to care for any other pet’s basic needs provides motivation to continue being active. Having to clean out a cage or tank and freshening feed and water bowls all counts as physical activity.
2. Better Heart Health
Pets support heart health in a few ways. We’ve already established that pets keep you active which means a contribution to aerobic health. Various studies and research lead to the overall conclusion that pet ownership is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. Reasons include:
- A link to lower blood pressure because of natural body fitness and the calming effect of pets
- Improved recovery rate and longer life in heart attack and stroke patients, particularly those who live alone other than their pet(s)
- Reduction in cholesterol levels and triglyceride levels due to regular exercise for the owner.
3. Reduced Anxiety and Stress
You might be aware of “therapy” or “emotional support” animals. Dogs and cats have been trained to be taken to hospitals, nursing and care institutions (like hospices) and other places (like schools) because they have a positive impact on mental health.
Petting an animal, even for just 10 minutes, can significantly decrease the body’s primary stress hormone – cortisol – which reduces anxiety and generally boosts mood. An increased interaction, such as playing with a pet, can boost happiness and engender a general sense of calm as this activity can increase levels of dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin – commonly known as the feel-good hormones
Any age level can benefit from the anxiety-busting effects of therapy animals but there are greater benefits for certain psychological conditions such as PTSD and autism.
And the benefits aren’t limited to therapy animals. You might be one of the many people who made the decision to get a pet during the COVID pandemic. During this time that was very stressful for a huge number of people, their dog or cat helped to relieve some of the anxiety.
4. Companionship to Reduce Loneliness
Loneliness is more common than you might think. According to a Statista survey, about 33 percent of the world’s adult population experience loneliness. This survey was undertaken during the Covid pandemic, but it is an indication of how widespread a silent problem can be. In the UK, Government statistics show that the pandemic increased loneliness by 2 percent.
There are plenty of studies and research that show that loneliness can be counteracted by pet ownership. The Human Animal Bond Research Institute states that 80 percent of pet owners claim to feel less lonely thanks to their pets.
A pet provides companionship so the feeling of being alone is greatly reduced but there’s also a return of affection and loyalty as well as a great sense of comfort. It may sound silly, but pets are also great listeners. People who can’t express themselves or have no one to talk to can gain comfort from talking to their pets.
One of the effects of loneliness is a feeling of worthlessness, of not being needed. Having a pet means you have to provide care to a living creature who is reliant on you, so being a pet parent gives you a sense of purpose and fills some of the voids of being needed.
A pet may also encourage more social interaction. You might meet people while walking your dog or other owners when you pop into the pet shop for supplies. Your pet can be a conversation starter when you pop into the local Greenford vets.
5. Decreased Allergies in Children
There are people who are allergic to pets which is either congenital or acquired. There is also, however, evidence that demonstrates that children who are exposed to pet animals as infants are less likely to develop allergies later in childhood. The incidence of eczema and asthma is reduced.
This leads to the conclusion that the same children also develop a stronger immune system as they grow up. A greater reserve of antibodies is collected as the youngsters come into contact with the diverse set of germs and microbes that dogs and cats carry.
Look After Your Pet
As you can see, there are significant and tangible benefits your pet friend can bring to your health and wellbeing. Look after them well and you can enjoy your relationship for many years.
Here at pawsinthecityx.com, we are committed to providing the best quality care to pets of all types. We offer a full range of services including grooming at our veterinary clinics in Ealing and Greenford. You can contact Paws in the City by calling 02045 199 857 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org to speak to a vet in Greenford Quays and at email@example.com in Dickens Yard, Ealing.