It’s Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW), which runs from 8-14 May. This year’s theme – surviving or thriving - seeks to uncover why too few people in the UK are thriving with good mental health.
The companionship that our pets bring has long been known to help enhance the wellbeing and mental health of owners. Our own research tells us that a massive 90% of owners say that having a pet makes them happier and 48% believe that pet ownership reduces their stress levels. And it’s a two-way street – pet ownership comes with the dual responsibility of looking after not just your pet’s physical health but their mental health too. Our latest post looks at the mental health benefits of owning a pet as well as how to make sure you take the best care of your pet’s mental health at the same time.
Pets and their mental health
Whatever type of pet you own, it’s vitally important that you look after their mental wellbeing as well as their physical health.
Different types of pets have different requirements when it comes to their mental wellbeing and companionship is an important part of this – for example, rabbits are sociable animals and are happier when kept in pairs, whereas more solitary animals like cats can struggle to adapt to living with other animals.
The environment in which a pet lives is also an important contributor to their mental wellbeing – for example, cats thrive on safe places from which they can observe their surroundings whereas rabbits need a hutch with enough space to stand up on their back legs without their ears touching the roof, as well as space to run, jump, graze, dig and rest in order to make sure they stay happy as well as physically healthy.
Exercise is a vital component of good mental health for all pets – particularly highly active animals such as dogs who require regular exercise in order to stimulate their brains as well as to keep them in great physical condition. Guest contributor to our site, Sandra Lawton, shared some great tips for keeping your dog mentally active, including creating fun and challenging games to keep them engaged.
Looking for inspiration to get started? Try our top tips
- Take your dog for a walk to a new place. The fresh air, lighter evenings, change of scenery and the exercise will leave you both feeling happier and healthier
- Give your cat plenty of room to roam around. Leaving ‘puzzle’ toys to keep them entertained when you are out is a great idea so that you can come home to a playful and loving feline friend
- Grooming your pet is a fantastic time to bond – take a look at our top tips from grooming expert Kelly Davis, Chairman of the British Dog Groomer’s Association
- Look for fun ways to provide mental stimulation for your pet. For example, a bored dog soon becomes a naughty dog. For example, making them ‘work’ for their food a part of a playful training activity