Love your pet? You’re more likely to be happier and healthier!

Did you know - during the first few months of COVID-19 lockdowns, pet adoption rates rose dramatically?

Before COVID-19, PetRescue (an Australian pet rescue service) would have an average of 9000 to 10,000 pets listed for adoption at any one time. But that number is now hovering between 4000 and 5000 as pets find new owners much quicker – almost 50% reduction!

Perhaps you were one of those who thought a four-legged companion would be a good idea? Well, great news, widespread research shows that having a pet can keep your mind and body happier.

Does science really show pets improve our mental health?

Yes, they can reduce stress!

One US study showed that participants who were asked to do a maths task in front of their pets showed smaller increases in blood pressure and heart rate — in contrast to doing it in front of their spouse, which made it more stressful.

Yes, they can reduce anxiety!

Scientists at Washington State University have recently demonstrated that pets can provide anxiety relieving physiological benefits. A study involved 249 college students randomly divided into four groups. The first group received hands-on interaction in small groups with cats and dogs for 10 minutes. They could pat, play with, and generally hang out with the animals as they wanted.

To compare effects of different exposures to animals, the second group observed other people petting animals while they waited in line for their turn. The third group watched a slideshow of the same animals available during the intervention, while the fourth group was "waitlisted."

Those students waited for their turn quietly for 10 minutes without their phones, reading materials, or other stimuli, but were told they would experience animal interaction soon.

Several salivary cortisol samples were collected from each participant, starting in the morning when they woke up. Once all the data was crunched from the various samples, the students who interacted directly with the pets showed significantly less cortisol in their saliva after the interaction!

Yes, they can reduce loneliness!

When it comes to loneliness, we need to be careful, it can be extremely harmful to our mental and physical health. Social isolation itself increases the risk of all-cause mortality by 29%, while loneliness increases it by 26%, and living alone by 32%. For those under the age of 65 years, the risk to health associated with any of these three is even greater.

Pets can help combat loneliness, they make great companions and can truly be someone we can talk, complain, laugh, and cry too. They won’t judge or talk back, which is always a bonus.

Having a pet can also lead to social interactions – for example, meeting people at the dog park or certain breed meet ups!

Yes, they can help us be active leading to better mental health!

It’s a very known fact that exercise can help our minds, some studies suggesting that exercise is just as effective, if not more effective than medical intervention in alleviating depressive symptoms.

Having a pooch means you will be getting daily walks in which can only mean good things for your mind…and waistlines!

Yes, some already support humans for a full-time job!

Mental health assistance dogs are being used throughout Australia and can support people living with mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, PTSD, and schizophrenia.

These very smart dogs are used in unique circumstances, but even our own ‘untrained’ household pets help us release the love hormone, oxytocin, and boost our happy vibes!

Perhaps next time you’re on the fence with adding a furry member to your family, you can take a leap of faith backed by science!

Good luck!

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