SPCA New Zealand

The head and heart benefits of owning a pet

23 September 2020
The head and heart benefits of owning a pet

Mental Health Awareness Week (21-27 September) is upon us and this year’s theme is: Reimagine Wellbeing Together – He Tirohanga Anamata.

At SPCA, we work extremely hard to ensure that animals in our care are offered the chance to be placed into loving forever homes. If you have experienced the privilege of pet ownership, you will no doubt already understand the emotional benefits of their love and companionship. There is also a growing body of scientific evidence to support the many and varied benefits of pet ownership, from improved mental health and wellbeing to better cardiac health!

There is no doubt that 2020 has been a challenging year for people throughout the world. But, as the old saying goes, ‘every cloud has a silver lining’, and here at SPCA we witnessed first-hand how pets brought a sense of comfort during these extraordinary times.

When the Covid-19 Alert Level 4 was announced back in March, SPCA sought the help of the New Zealand public to get as many animals as possible adopted to loving forever homes. In just five days, 1,157 animals were adopted from our SPCA Centres – that’s three times the usual number of adoptions! We also worked hard to place 2,527 animals that weren’t ready for adoption into temporary foster homes where they could experience the benefits of a home environment. Not only did this provide essential support to SPCA animals, but having an animal companion at home during lockdown proved to be a great boredom buster and welcomed distraction for many.

New Zealand’s Covid-19 response has seen nationwide and regional lockdowns, travel restrictions, and limits on social gatherings and interactions. While these restrictions are vital to Government’s strategy to “Stamp it Out”, it has been a difficult time with many people feeling overwhelmed, stressed, anxious, and lonely. Animals have helped many people cope with this difficult time - below are some ways furry-friendships boost mental and physical wellbeing:

-Pets can reduce stress: simply patting an animal reduces blood pressure and helps people relax. Research has also shown that pets can help people cope with the impact of adverse life events.

-Pets provide companionship: pets can reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness by providing unconditional love and affection. Animals also act as a catalyst for human friendships and increase social connections.

-Pets provide routine and motivation: Taking care of an animal can provide a sense of purpose and structure, which can be helpful in managing conditions such as depression and anxiety. Pets love routine and can encourage us to wake, eat, play and exercise at regular times.

-Pets encourage guardians to be more active: Dogs love going for walks and this serves as a great motivator for their owners to enjoy the mental and physical benefits of exercise too! A 2018 SPCA Dog Walking survey found that 70% of dog owners say walking their dog puts them in a better mood for the day, and 80% said that walking their dog helps them de-stress and unwind.

Animals don’t just benefit their owner’s mental health – research has shown that pets in the workplace can reduce stress, increase collaboration and promote productivity. The Purina Pets at Work Day was held earlier this month on 6th September. ‘Pets at Work’ is a global movement led by Purina, that encourages and supports organisations to make their workplace pet-friendly: https://www.purina.co.nz/better-with-pets/pets-at-work/

Pets give us so much, and here at SPCA we are proud that we are able to give thousands of animals a second chance at life every year. You can view the SPCA animals for adoption and find out more about our adoption process here: https://www.spca.nz/adopt. There are also many other ways in which you can help SPCA animals, become part of the SPCA family and get your furry dose of goodness – find out more here: https://www.spca.nz/how-you-can-help/volunteer

For more information about Mental Health Awareness Week, please visit: https://www.mhaw.nz/

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