Every day is pet day for us adoring owners, but the 11th of April is extra special because it’s when the whole world officially comes together in celebration of our four-legged friends! For this year’s International Pet Day, we’ve taken a closer look at how pets improve our lives and how we can repay all the benefits that our fur babies bring us…
This is an easy yes!
We all know that our pets have the power to help us feel better – melting our stresses away with one snuggle. What may surprise you though is how well-recognised this is in science. Research has shown that owning a pet has a significant positive impact on mental health, including improving symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Incredibly, our four-legged friends also have a positive effect on physical health too, with studies showing that simply stroking a pet can lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Our animal companions can even play a part in the prevention of some health problems – dogs can help their owners develop a more active lifestyle, and many smokers quit over concern for their pet’s health, rather than their own.
Finally, (and not to be dramatic here) owning a pet may even save your life – one study discovered that owning a cat reduces your risk of death because of heart disease!
Most of us consider our pet to be a member of the family and include them in all our family celebrations and traditions. Children often consider their relationship with their pet to be more important than some human relationships! Although, we can all probably think of at least one person in our lives that is way down the pecking order compared to our fur baby!
It’s not surprising really – our pets are excellent non-judgemental confidantes and provide many of us with a sense of purpose, which is important for the development of self-confidence. In fact, children that grow up with pets have been shown to have enhanced self-esteem, empathy and cognitive development. They participate more in social activities and have fewer peer problems.
Pets are also great for opening doors of opportunity. They encourage learning, going out and finding new adventures and provide a shared sense of responsibility – all the ingredients for quality family bonding.
All the good stuff that owning a pet brings is often enhanced in older people, due to them being more likely to live alone and being at greater risk of things such as heart disease.
One study found that pet ownership helped older adults reduce loneliness by providing direct companionship and increasing socialisation. These owners reported a greater sense of purpose and meaning and the knock-on effects of all this was thought to increase their resilience against mental health disorders.
Amazingly, another study showed that the healthcare requirements of older pet owners were around half that of non-pet owners of the same age!
While it may feel like nothing can break the bond that you have with your pet, there are some unfortunate hidden dangers that can threaten it.
Behavioural issues can put a real strain on your friendship, making you question if you really know them at all. It’s important to remember that your pet isn’t deliberately being naughty, or trying to upset you, so try to remain calm with them if they do seem to be playing up. Misbehaviour usually has a root cause, so think carefully whether anything has changed in your pet’s life recently that may have rattled them, and consult your vet ASAP, to make sure it’s not an illness making them act strangely.
No-one likes a third wheel in a relationship, but parasites can sometimes be just that! Bugs that bite and worms that are just plain gross can make it difficult to welcome snuggles with your best buddy. But hey, it’s not their fault! They pick up these pesky critters when they’re just hanging out being… them! Find out more in ‘Parasites and your Pooch’ and ‘Do I Really Need to Worm My Cat’. That’s why it’s important to make sure that they are fully protected against parasites. Regular treatments with effective parasite products mean that you can both enjoy life together, uninterrupted!
Trust us, they know! But we get the desire to want to spoil them and make sure that they feel as loved as they make us feel. While it’s tempting to shower them in tasty treats or lavish gifts (and don’t get us wrong – that’s OK sometimes…), all they really want is YOU.
Spend time with your pet doing what they love – play their favourite game with them or take them somewhere that you know they’ll love. Or just hang out together – sometimes quiet time is the best.
And of course, the other big responsibility of being you pet’s best mate is to keep them healthy, so make sure you visit the vet regularly for check-ups and proactively prevent disease with parasite products and vaccinations. Choose the best diet that you can and take time to research their needs. After all, love is all about caring. For more tips check out ‘Five Ways to Show Our Pets We Care!’.
Happy International Pet Day!