Does owning a pet have a positive impact on your mental health?
It seems research is mixed when it comes to this question and the benefits aren't always black and white.
So to help shine an anecdotal lived experience light on the issue, we asked our community, 'What are the mental health benefits of owning a pet?'
Having a pet mitigates against isolation
When you come home there's always a presence there. Having unconditional love and a constant companion around is a protective factor against mental health relapse and feelings of isolation.
Having a dog forces you to go outside, exercise and interact with other people. So even if you're not in the best mood having a dog can help kickstart the brain chemistry, give you a sense of purpose, motivation and makes you to care for someone other than yourself.
– Dov Degen
An extra reason for living
I have two dogs, Ally and Billy, that help me when I have a panic attack. Ally climbs on my chest and Billy licks my hands until I calm down. They are never far away and I'm forever grateful for them.
They give me an extra reason for living because they need me just as much as I need them.
– Danni Rae
They keep me calm
My kitten is pretty much the only thing that can calm me when I'm extremely anxious. She seems to know when I need her, and comes and sits on my lap.
When my anxiety is severe I have a high heart rate, tremors, sweating and a lot of tears. Having Ruby snuggle up with me eases all of those physical symptoms. She also calms my thoughts by making me feel loved, and like I have a purpose in life.
– Jade McManus
My dog literally saved me one afternoon
I was home alone and I was really struggling. I found myself sitting at the top of the stairs absolutely broken, hurting myself and weeping.
My little pup heard me crying, ran up, literally jumped into my lap and cuddled up to me. He showed me so much love and it was in that moment I knew it was going to be okay. He gave me the strength to keep going.
– Annie Linke
Their love is unconditional
It's dogs for me. The way you're greeted when you get home is nothing short of wonderful.
There's been many a time when I'm struggling to get out of bed but I have to go around the block with my pooches for everyone's sake.
It's a big commitment, so it's important to consider the logistics. It may not be for everyone. I know someone who can't have any pets at home, so they do dog walking for a company and hang out with different animals each day!
They're great company
I have hens and they are such great company. They chat when I'm in the garden and purr when they're happy. I also have the company of two magpies. They are so loving. The female sings to me before she eats.
– Diana Varcoe Hurst
My black dog keeps the other 'black dog' at bay
He's an alarm clock and personal trainer. He's always pleased to see me, always happy to cuddle.
I would never claim that my dog is a substitute for medication, but he's certainly a key part of my approach to mental health management.
They're a positive distraction
My beautiful dogs, Muffin and Bear, got me through so much. When life got too hard I just had to focus on them and I would usually be okay.
One of the things that helped me was working with Bear. We did obedience training and he is now a therapy dog. We go visit people in nursing homes, special schools and community mental health units who could do with hugs and pats.
I'm so glad we're able to spread the love and cuddles to people who really need it! When we get back home after a visit I feel really happy that we brought a bit of love and distraction to someone's day. I'm very proud of him.
– Ali Barry
No, he didn't pull me from a burning house or save me from drowning in a pool, but he saved me from myself and continues to do so daily.
Simba has been by my side through the highs and the lows. He got me through my darkest days, the days when I was too ashamed to confide in my friends. He knew how I felt, he lived through it too. He never judged though, he would be by my side purring his little head off, letting me know everything would be okay.
His soft fur and gentle purrs ground me. Almost instantly my anxiety eases when he's around. He's my furry, four-legged antidepressant.
I'm chuffed he's chosen me. Sim brings so much happiness, cuteness, and white fur into my life and I wouldn't have it any other way.