Pets and mental health

Pets are a wonderful way of helping us keep in good mental health, or for those of us who aren’t so lucky with keeping well, a great way to aid our recovery into a healthy mindset.

Pets are great for all sorts of reasons, as is shown by the fact billions of people across the world have them!

They are a wonderful distraction. Having a bad day? Why not snuggle up with your dog/cat/rabbit/guinea pig/hamster or whatever other pet you may have.

You learn their likes and dislikes, their personality, and how to get on best with your pet. You feed them, pet them, give them water and shelter. They rely on you. For those of us feeling useless in day to day life, they give you a purpose and something we know depends purely on us.

They add structure to your day. You know when you must feed them, water them, let them out, clean them out, walk them if it’s a pet that requires it. All of these things giving you a reason to get out of bed in the morning.

They can be rewarding; having a cuddle with your pet after a long hard day can be all you need to melt today’s stresses away.

Essentially, the amount you give to your pet in terms of not only food and supplies, but also love and affection, is given back to you by your pet in forms of hugs and routine.

Of course human interaction is very important and it is so so important to talk to people and share so that you do not feel alone, but unfortunately people cannot always be there; pets can. If you’re having a rough night and are fighting self harm urges or some horrid thoughts etc., you can always turn to your pet.

Even stroking them and holding them can ground us. They are a physical thing, they remind you that you are here and you are not in the past or future, but in the now. This can be especially helpful with disassociation or similar experiences, as it helps you feel part of your body rather than separate from it.

Reasons such as these are why animal therapy exists and is so successful in helping patients. It is particularly helpful for children with ADHD, and patients struggling from PTSD and/or depression.
I found an interesting article about animal therapies in The SCAS Journal from the Autumn of 2010, I definitely recommend the read.

I have a rabbit (lionhead, male, 9 months, and the fluffiest thing you’ll ever meet) and he means the absolute world to me. Some people might think it’s weird how much pets mean to them, but to m it makes sense. Pets have emotions and we learn to read them, just as we do with humans.

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Last but not least, you can draw parallels between your pet and life. You learn your pets needs, do more of what he/she likes, less of what they don’t, you look after them and give them space if they need it; all things you would do for a human.

My therapist once said “treat yourself like you treat your rabbit”. I laughed at first, but since I’ve realised she’s right.

We need to look after ourselves like we look after our pets, we need to love ourselves and nourish our bodies, we need to do more of what we enjoy and we need to be able to take time out when we need it.

Pets are wonderful things. They teach us things about ourselves that we may not have known before.

I hope you enjoyed this post, and please feel free to share your thoughts and experiences with pets and mental health in the comments below.

Thanks for reading.

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