Mental Health Awareness Week 2021 – Pets Our Support Bubble

Mental Health Awareness Week 2021 – Pets Our Support Bubble

For those of us who have the joy of sharing our world with a ‘Fur baby’ or two, we’re already well aware of the many ways in which our lives are enriched. But do any of us really know their true worth and the endless ways in which the human-animal bond can help us to live mentally healthier lives?

The key to the relationship between humans and their cats & dogs is the special connection and ability to read each other. Over time and through the day to day process of caring for our pets we become finely tuned to notice micro changes in them. Why are they quiet today, not so playful, not eating and drinking as usual, they seem tired, why does he look sad?  

We process this all very quickly and try to problem solve just as fast. So it should be no surprise that they do the same with us….and then some because they have other skills in their ‘tool box’ that us mere ‘Hoomans’ lack.

Pets have evolved to become acutely attuned to our behaviour and emotions, for example they’re able to understand many of the words we use, but they’re even better at interpreting our tone of voice, body language, and gestures.  Like any good friend our pet will look into our eyes to gauge our emotional state and try to understand what we’re thinking and feeling.

Dogs & Cats have a unique ability to predict and react to us, they know what we need before we do. Dogs in particular have an outstanding sense of smell, it is the strongest of their five senses. They are able to smell the production of various hormones and brain chemicals. Some dogs can even smell the rise & falls in blood sugar levels, which could be potentially lifesaving to those with diabetes.

In a similar way, dogs can smell the changes of serotonin which is a brain chemical that is associated with depression. Dogs can also smell Cortisol, which determines our anxiety level. When pets smell either of these, they will react by creating a comforting atmosphere, moving closer to you, purring and offering their paw to you to encouraging you to stroke & cuddle them.

Pets know that a cuddle can cure many ailments, they’re so wise. If a dog knows you like playing, suddenly one of the 20 plus multi coloured tennis balls he has or the teddy with only 3 limbs left and a suspect right eye will appear, to engage and relax you…Cunning little things! 

So in essence they can smell if we’re are anxious, depressed or ill and that’s pretty lucky for us because most of the time as humans, we don’t acknowledge this until we’ve reached crisis level and find ourselves listening the Dr’s answer phone message on a loop for 45 minutes, which is for sure going to fray that very last nerve you have left when we learn how important our call is to them!!

As with all aspects of our Mental well being, exercise has a vital role to play. What better reason to ‘get up and get walking’?

The bond of love, friendship and responsibility you feel towards your pet will overcome the even strongest desire to stay home on a cold, wet and windy day…usually!

Owning any pet is a monumental commitment and a responsibility that hopefully lasts many years. So knowing how essential it is, not only for our own health but our pets too, becomes a great motivator to create a routine of regular daily exercise.

By fulfilling our role in their daily lives we can find a purpose in our own, we all need to feel needed to some extent whether we acknowledge it or not and there is a sense of value & worth to be had.

When we have structure in our lives it enables us to feel in control, which is important as depression can often leave us feeling out of control because of internal and external factors. 

The sense of freedom, space and sometimes self imposed isolation can be so rejuvenating, giving ourselves time to think in a different environment, fresh air, natural smells and sounds. On the flip side it also gives us the opportunity for the briefest of exchanges with complete strangers “good morning, it’s a beautiful day”.

The companionship shared when walking with Toby our dog is ‘Golden’ and you wouldn’t believe the chats I have with him as we walk through the woods with birds singing whilst all the time witnessing the changing of the seasons.

Taking your dog for a lovely walk in the country park, by the sea or local to home can be such a lift to your mood.

The physical & Mental benefits of having a cat or dog in your life are literally life changing and can be life saving, they reduce stress, anxiety, and depression and can ease loneliness Nothing beats loneliness like coming home to a wagging tail or purring cat.

Pets truly are our best friends, they know us, they get us, and they accept us as we are. They don’t worry about what happened yesterday or what might happen tomorrow all they ask is to be fed & watered regularly, taken for long fun filled walks, lots of tummy rubs and be loved unconditionally as they do us.

Pets make us smile and laugh, add structure to our day and because pets ‘live in the moment’ they can teach us a thing or two

I personally will be forever indebted to Toby our soon to be 2 year old Goldendoodle, he has changed our world in a million different ways, he’s our everyday hero without the cape!….for those of you who’ve forgotten his birthday it’s on Monday, you’ve still got time to get him a card and present, no more tennis balls please!

Collage of cats and dogs.

Jodie: I have 2 little sausage dogs called Fendi & Tilly. Before lockdown I would usually spend my weekends shopping or going out for dinner, however with the restrictions in place I changed my routine and took my dogs on many country walks most weekends. Which really helped to break up time spend at home as I was working from home. They both have great little characters and have kept my family entertained over the past year!

Diego: Belle is 7m years old (human years!) she’s the most friendly dog ever, she can sit next to me for hours and we do enjoy watching movies together! Leo is the new addition to the Family. We got him just a few weeks before the first lockdown in 2020. He is a very playful puppy that has really brightened up some very tough days in the last year!

Holly: I have 2 cats that have been driving me crazy over lockdown, but I love them to pieces – they’re called Bubble and Squeak.

Squeak is always interrupting my work from home calls and trying to be fed every 5 minutes. His worst enemy is hair bands, he gets scared by them, tries to eat them, he jumped in my handbag trying to ‘kill’ the hair band I threw into it the other day. He also likes to jump onto the garage and sit outside my bedroom window to be let in, because the normally kitchen cat door isn’t his style. It’s quite entertaining really and has brought so much more joy and laughter to the house during this lockdown.

Bubble is a dopey cat, always falling off table tops and trying to catch the little Robin’s in the garden, he never has much success as he’s only got 2 teeth left and his balance is terrible, he’s probably the first cat that NEVER lands on his feet! He spends most of his time asleep on my bed while I work.