Recent time off with the family over the holiday period made me realise just how important our pets are to us and our children.
I noticed how the dogs provide a constant source of joy; getting excited over every little thing, showing us all endless love and giving us the perfect excuse for long family walks together. And the cats give us a reason for a much needed sit down and relax as we pet them.
And of course on my everyday travels around Sydney as a mobile vet, I see first hand the joy my patients bring their owners. People of all ages and from all walks of life get so much pleasure from spending time with their pets.
I’m often amazed by how active and positive some of my elderly clients are. I’m sure their pets must contribute to this. However unwell or down a person may be feeling, their dog will greet them like a long lost friend and show them endless love.
And their cat will weave between their legs wanting to be stroked and loved. This has to lift their mood and day-to-day I’m sure this leads to a more optimistic outlook.
Also the bond between my elderly pet owners and their pets gives my clients purpose and a reason to get up in the morning. I feel very privileged to help keep their pets healthy and contribute in a positive way to their well-being.
Dogs also help people socialise. If I go for a walk alone no-one talks to me. But if I go for a walk with the dogs 5 people will stop and chat before I’m half way home. In a world where social isolation is on the increase I feel this has to be a good thing.
I was interested (and not surprised) to read about the effect of pets on patients with Alzheimer’s. Research at the University of California at Davis School of Veterinary Medicine showed that Alzheimer’s patients suffer less stress and have fewer anxious outbursts if there is a pet in the home. The researchers concluded that the “playful interaction and gentle touch from a well-trained, docile animal can help soothe an Alzheimer’s patient and decrease aggressive behaviour.”
And if pets benefit the elderly – what about kids?
It’s been widely reported that children who grow up in homes with pets have less risk of developing common allergies and asthma. Also kids with pets get outside more – this has to be a positive – all the associated running, jumping and physical development is more important than ever in today’s sedentary world of iPads and TVs.
With our kids I’ve noticed they find hugging our pets very reassuring and calming. And I was interested to read that children with pets display improved impulse control, social skills and self-esteem. I also read that if you’re struggling to get your kids to read out loud they’ll often happily build their confidence by reading to the dog or cat!
I’m also not surprised to learn some children with autism are better able to interact with pets than people. Learning to first connect with a cat or dog, for example, may even help an autistic child in their interactions with people. Playing and exercising with a pet can help a child with learning disorders stay alert and attentive throughout the day. It can also be a great antidote to stress and frustration caused by the learning disability.
And me?… Well after a long day at work and once the kids are in bed, I love to just sit quietly, cat on my lap, dog by my feet, and just soak up the positive benefits of having our animals as part of the family.