Welcome to my first blog – I am a counsellor helping people who are feeling distress due to things like: stress, anxiety, depression, traumatic experiences, relationship issues and difficult life events.

International Cat Day

Today is International Cat Day and it got me thinking about how our pets (and cats are very important here) help our mental health.

How do pets help our mental health?

Did you know that pets can help to lower our stress response (lowering our stress hormones), which in turn can have a positive impact on our mood.  Our pets can also help us to manage our feelings of anxiety; feeling sad or lonely or maybe isolated from those closest to us.  The connection we have with our pet cannot be underestimated in terms of the positive impact they have on our wellbeing.

Pets and relationships

When we get our pet and start interacting with them we are building a relationship based on unconditional love. Being loved unconditionally helps us not to feel judged and to feel more confident about building human relationships.  Pets helps us feel less lonely and isolated. They teach us that we matter, and we are needed.

Pets can help us be Mindful

If you watch your pet, you will notice that they live in the moment.  They do not ruminate about past events and they don’t worry about what might be around the corner.  They are living in the ‘here and now’ focused on what is in the present moment.  This is what we humans call ‘Mindfulness.’  When we feel anxious, we are either worrying about the past or the future. We find it difficult to focus on the moment we are in. Interacting with our pet whether it be playing, or having a cuddle can help us to notice and enjoy being in the present moment; a useful step in starting to notice other things in the here and now, which is a great strategy to practise for learning to manage stress and anxiety.

What does research tell us?

There is a lot of research about how pets can help our wellbeing – you may be interested in the following:

  • Having a pet and playing with them can help to increase levels of serotonin and dopamine, which help us to feel calm and relaxed.
  • Having a pet can help us to have lower blood pressure in stressful situations. 
  • Having a pet can help to elevate our sense of worth; our self-esteem, which improves our overall sense of wellbeing

What could this mean for you?

So, on International Cat Day, if you don’t have a pet, it may be worth considering how one might benefit you.   

If you already have a pet, whether it be a cat, dog, bunny rabbit or goldfish, whatever you have take a moment with them and notice how they make you feel. Notice what happens in your body and how this impacts your mood.

Happy International Cat Day!