Speak to any pet owner and they will reel off an endless list of ways that animal companions can change lives. Pets can be our best friends, confidants, motivators and even our teachers. In many cases, they also improve our wellbeing and health. For some people, pets are quite simply a lifeline. It’s no wonder that an estimated 12 million, or 44 per cent, of households in the UK have pets.
But it’s not always that we think about the hugely positive social and emotional connection pets have with our society. And while every relationship between animal and owner is unique, here are some of the many benefits that pets bring to millions of people the world over. We've also taken a look at how some former Blue Cross pets are changing lives for the better along the way.
Health and fitness
It’s true, pets really are good for your health – and the medical benefits have long been lauded. Having a dog improves fitness as it encourages you to get out walking more, and even playing with your dog or cat indoors when you’d otherwise be lying idle on the sofa can loosen up those limbs and get the blood pumping around your body. Horse ownership brings with it plenty of exercise too, and is often used as a form of rehabilitation and therapy for those with injuries or disabilities. Staying fit and active, whatever your age, helps to prevent a whole host of illnesses, and pets give people that motivation to keep moving.
Various pieces of research also suggest that merely stroking a pet can lower blood pressure, therefore reducing the likelihood of heart problems or strokes. Studies have even produced evidence showing that children who grow up with pets are less likely to develop allergies. And then there are dogs that have been known to sniff out life-threatening diseases. Pets are, undisputedly, the very best medicine.
Sarah Franklin was on the lookout for a faithful hound to join her in her adventures exploring the great British outdoors and rehomed Tigger in March 2016.
Now, the once shy stray staffie even joins her in one of her favourite pastimes: paddleboarding, and sits dutifully on the end of her board in his doggy lifejacket.
Sarah said: “We do all sorts together. We go hiking, he comes out running with me, we do agility together – which Tigger is miles better at that I am – he comes paddleboarding, we’ve been sailing and canoeing; pretty much everything!”
Read more about how Tigger has become Sarah’s motivation in life.
Anything that encourages you to get out and explore the great outdoors helps to improve mental wellbeing, and in many cases pet ownership does this. But, again, even when you’re inside, snuggles on the sofa with your cat, dog, hamster or rabbit can reduce stress and lift our mood due to the so-called happy hormones, or endorphins, that it releases (these are the same chemicals that help to reduce blood pressure). That’s why pets have long been used to provide therapy to those in hospitals, care homes and hospices.
In fact, Blue Cross has seen first-hand the therapeutic benefits that pets can bring. We have rehomed dogs, cats and even ponies that have gone on to become therapy pets, whether that’s helping children with learning challenges or bringing comfort to terminally ill patients.
Pets can make a house a home, and that’s certainly the case for a very special Blue Cross cat living alongside elderly people in a residential care scheme.
Libby was rehomed by our Hertfordshire centre to Fosse House in St Albans and spends her days spreading joy to those that live there, contently weaving her way in and out of rooms and snuggling up beside them in the lounge.
It has proved to be the perfect calling for the abandoned puss, who sadly arrived at Blue Cross in the back of a taxi, all alone and with no details about her past to help us understand her needs.
Find out more about how Libby is continuing to transform lives.