It’s hard to put into words the happiness that a pet can bring someone. You might be the one caring for your pet but they support and care for you in unspoken ways. Whether it’s a dog wagging their tail and greeting you at the door, a cat or bunny snuggled in your lap or a bird singing to you, pets provide companionship and unconditional affection. The bond you share with a pet can do a lot to support your mental health.These are just a few ways pets can positively impact your wellbeing:

Pets don’t judge

You don’t need to explain to them why you haven’t left the house in a couple of days or why you haven’t brushed your hair. You don’t need to impress them with witty one-liners or solve problems for them. Pets love you without judgement and they’re happy to be in your company.

Pets keep you company

When you’re not feeling great about yourself or you’re not up to interacting with people, pets are there for you. They’re great to talk to (perhaps because they can’t talk back) and they pick up when you’re not feeling 100 per cent. They often have a calming influence. And let’s be honest, they’re the only housemates you can’t stay mad at when they make a mess.

Pets can encourage you to be more active

Ok, so you can’t walk a fish, but pets such as dogs, cats and rabbits often enjoy spending time outdoors. Head outside; join your pets in their playtime and enjoy the fresh air together.

Walking the dog is one of those activities people often think of as a chore, but moderate exercise is just as helpful for your wellbeing as it is for your pet’s. It also gives you and your dog the opportunity to socialise. Mingling with other dog owners can be a great way to manage social anxiety because you can ease into a conversation by talking about your dogs.

Taking care of a pet can remind you to take better care of yourself

If you’ve ever owned a pet, you will have been on the receiving end of the wide-eyed stare that says “it’s dinner time, human. Please feed me”. Pets love routines and routines are good for people too. Pets encourage you to wake, eat, play, exercise and sleep at regular times. Routines give your days purpose and structure which are supportive factors to manage conditions depression and anxiety. Members of our Beyond Blue forums have shared how pets make them feel:

  • “I have a black cat named Buddy and he's my life, basically. I have no friends or contact with family currently, so he's it. Knowing he's around is a great comfort and during bad periods he's generally the only thing that gets me out of bed.”
  • “I have a dog called Poochie, he’s a Havanese (no one has ever heard of that breed... it’s a type of Bichon). I’m home alone in the evenings so we got him when anxiety and depression entered my life. He’s my best friend. My little companion and he can sense my different moods. He’s what’s known as a ‘velcro-dog’ so he follows me EVERYWHERE.”
  • “Scout keeps me well by loving me, unconditionally. I can feel low, beat myself up for some perceived fault or just be miserable and then Scout will come along, tap my leg and remind me that I'm important to her. That she needs me. And that I'm not so bad after all.”
  • “I have two miniature Pinschers, George and Agatha, that have been great at helping with my depression/anxiety/OCD. Playing with them or even just watching them play together is so entertaining and a good distraction from negative thoughts. The dogs also encourage me to be more active and to get out and about by wanting to go for walks. I also have three cats that love snuggles and pats. I find the sound of their purring to be calming. On days that I am feeling unmotivated I still get up and tend to my pets and then once I am up and doing things it is easier to keep going and do more things.”
Related reading: Why feeling connected makes us feel good

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