Pets and Mental Health

By Niamh McDermott

Many of the students at St Augustine’s own pets. Did you know that they improve your mental and physical health? Cats and dogs are seen as the most common pets to reduce heart rate. When stroking a cat, it is proven that less stress hormones are released and therefore the blood pressure drops. Dogs are also good for reducing stress. But these are not the only pets that can reduce stress and lower blood pressure. Even just watching fish can reduce your heart rate leaving you feeling more relaxed. Studies have shown that by playing with pets, serotonin and dopamine levels increase and pet owners are less likely to suffer from depression than non pet owners. One of the reasons why pets are so good at reducing stress levels is that they fulfil the basic human need of touch which can quickly soothe those which are under a high level of stress. 

Pets, especially dogs, can also improve your physical health, which in turn improves your physical health. By having a dog you are forced to walk it everyday, this exercise in the fresh air is beneficial for both you and your dog. Taking a dog on a walk can also improve the connection between you and your dog and can improve their behaviour. Walking your dog can also lead to meeting other pet owners which can lead to new friendships. Having a pet is a great conversation starter and these friendships can also help improve your mental health and decrease loneliness.

Having a pet improves a sense of companionship. The well known phrase ‘a man’s best friend’ to refer to a dog is also true for any pet. Even having a bird or a rabbit can decrease loneliness which improves mental health. Having any pet can add routine and structure into your daily lives as you need to feed them and clean up after them. This can reduce stress and also leads to improving routine in other areas of life such as school. 

The benefits of pets for young people are great. Pets give unconditional love and do not give orders (unlike teachers and parents!). This can ease separation anxiety within children and young people. The companionship can also improve a child’s self image and make them feel important. Having a pet can improve a young person’s sense of responsibility as they need to be able to look after their pet everyday, no matter if they don’t particularly want to. 

Overall, pets are very beneficial for people of all ages to help improve both mental and physical health leading to a happier, healthier life. If you are considering a pet, these benefits are a huge plus! 

Posted in Lifestyle, Science & Tech.