• Deborah Petrou

Can a pet help alleviate stress?

Updated: Feb 4

Can a pet help you to stay sane?

With so much uncertainty around Covid-19 and many people still in self-isolation, are our pets more important than ever? Rocky, is the youngest member of our family and lives in the moment. He doesn’t know about Coronavirus, at least I think he doesn't!

Is he wondering why we’re all at home all day? Will he have separation anxiety when all this is over and we venture back out into the world?

I like to imagine that he’s so sick of us being home. He might welcome the peace and quiet! Pets can be a great source of comfort, companionship and motivation. In many ways, they help us to live mentally healthier lives.

A recent Guardian article asked:

“What is it about animals? As the bad news about the Coronavirus continues, “send me dogs and cats” has become a regular cry on social media, an easy-to-grasp shorthand for “I feel terrible, cheer me up”. The response is always the same: hundreds of pictures of animals doing daft things – but somehow it has a magical, calming effect.”

Noel Fitzpatrick, known to many as the ‘Supervet’ was recently on TV talking about his new podcast ‘Animal People’. It's a celebration about our special relationship with animals. He says: "I am reflecting on how important it is for humans and the animals we care about to look after each other right now. Coronavirus has heightened our awareness of families."

Modern life is stressful enough, without Coronavirus to consider. High levels of anxiety can lead to numerous health problems. Fortunately, pets can really help us unwind – stroking your cat or dog or watching fish swim around in a tank can relax you.

The pet owner community is really friendly too. People will often stop to talk to me about Rocky in the park. Although this is currently a distant - more than 2 metre apart - nod at the moment, there is comfort in knowing that we are in this together and that one day, we'll be able to stop and chat as we have done in the past.

Every parent has heard the question ‘Can I have a kitten/puppy/hamster?’ at some point. It’s no secret that kids love animals, and if they’re old enough, having one as a pet can actually teach them a lot of important skills. Practical skills are required to own a pet, such as cleaning out the cage, grooming and teaching tricks; but they'll also develop their nurturing and empathy skills, which are vital in later life.

With almost no effort at all, pets manage to bring so much joy into our lives. They make us laugh, comfort us when we’re sick or upset, and are always there for us no matter what. It’s no wonder that an estimated 12 million British households choose to keep a pet.

Pets are part of our everyday lives and part of our families. They provide us with companionship but also with emotional support, reduce our stress levels, sense of loneliness and help us to increase our social activities and add to a child's self-esteem and positive emotional development.

Dogs can help to keep you active. I don’t think I would venture out every day, in all kinds of weather, if it wasn’t for Rocky.

Pets, more now than ever before, are providing us with company and a much needed sense of routine. Having a friendly face at home isn’t just a 'nice-to-have' – it can help you stave off common mental health problems caused at least in some part by loneliness. Of course a pet isn't a cure all. If you are are feeling particularly stressed or anxious it may be worth talking to a professional.

But for now, let's hear it for our four legged friends.

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