Pets-and-Wellbeing

Why Pets are Great for our Wellbeing and Mental Health

by Angela Hickey | 3 min read

February 8th, 2021

Pets bring great benefits to our lives, improving our wellbeing and mental health. This is especially so in this difficult time of COVID lockdowns, when we are limited in our social contacts and spend a lot of time at home and often alone. Pets are valued as family members and companions and many studies confirm an enhanced quality of life due to interactions between people and animals.

Companionship

The companionship offered by our pets is a huge benefit, especially for those living alone. It’s no wonder that there has been a big increase in people adopting pets during these COVID times, when people are stuck at home . And this increase in pet owners has been reflected in pet insurance sales. There has been a remarkable growth in the sales of Allianz Pet Insurance in recent months, particularly online at Allianz.ie.

Research has demonstrated that after a brief interaction between a dog and its owner neurochemicals which are associated with positive, ‘feel good’ emotions are increased in both the person and the dog.

People living alone find that their social contacts increase when they walk their dogs and meet other pet parents who stop for a ‘socially –distanced’ chat. Vets and vet nurses in local Veterinary practices also become supports and friends in caring for our pets. 

The unconditional nature of a pet’s attachment to us is gratifying and creates a ‘feel good factor’. Their affection is always there, no matter what our mood is. There is no judgement. We can be fully ourselves!

The physicality of a pet (climbing on our laps, purring, rubbing against us, barking, playfulness, displays of affection etc.) is a great antidote to the virtual, ‘on screen’ world we humans inhabit for large parts of our days! As we engage with our pets we become more present, aware and grounded. 

Health & Wellbeing

A pet dog needs daily exercise and this encourages us to get out into local parks, mountains and beaches to satisfy those needs, which ensures that we also get regular exercise and contact with the beauty of Nature, both of which are very beneficial to our mental health.

Petting and stroking a pet has been proven to lower blood pressure and relieve stress. The stress hormone, Cortisol, is reduced, leading to many health benefits, including stronger immune systems.  Stress reduction lets us relax into the present moment, easing out of tension and anxiety.

The routines we create to meet our pet’s needs such as feeding, play, walks etc. helps to regulate us as well, especially when we are locked down at home and out of our own normal routines.

We also have the responsibility of looking after our pet’s needs and keeping them healthy. Children can be involved and learn a lot about caring for others. This nurturing of another dependant creature helps empathy to develop.

Our dog’s joy at playing ball encourages us to become more playful ourselves. Our cat’s contentment as they settle on a cushion, purring, by the fire, is contagious. Due to ‘mirror neurones’ in the brain we feel what they are feeling and become contented as a result. 

Pets & Vulnerable People

In normal times, pets are brought into hospitals, hospices, nursing homes and other care settings and bring benefits to residents there, as they are affectionate to all and have a very calming effect on those who interact with them.

Assistance dogs have a great impact on the mental wellbeing of children with Autism and other disabilities in helping to calm and regulate their emotions.

The death of a pet can also bring emotional learning into their family’s life. Children who had close bonds with a pet can experience deep grief at this time. When this is acknowledged and supported it can be a big teaching moment for them which will stand to them, as a resource, when future losses occur in their lives. Adults will also need support and understanding at the loss of a pet because “with great love comes great grief.”

Throughout the circle of life, from tiny puppy or kitten, to elderly pet, we benefit so much for our mental health, well–being, and growth as human beings, from our bond with our pets.

Get A Quote

If you’ve purchased or adopted a new pet during COVID lockdown, why not get in touch with us. For a quick and easy online quote for Allianz Pet Insurance, just fill in this form and we will give you an accurate quote in minutes. You’ll also save 10% online on a new policy.

Allianz p.l.c. is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland. Standard acceptance criteria and policy conditions apply.

About the author

bio image for Angela Hickey
Angela Hickey

Allianz in-house vet and qualified psychotherapist.