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Pets and your wellbeing

17 May, 2017
Pet effect

According to Animals Medicines Australia, Australia has one of the highest rates of pet ownership in the world. There are almost 29 million pets in Australia today and that’s more than the estimated human population of 25 million. Almost two thirds of Australian households have a pet and 90% of us have had a pet at some point in our lives. It’s estimated that in 2019, Australians had a total of 5.1 million dogs, 3.8 million cats, 11.3 million fish and a further 5.6 million pet birds.

What are the benefits of having a pet?

Almost 90% of Australian pet owners report that their pets have a very positive impact on their lives. The key benefits reported were that pets provide owners with love, affection and companionship.

Some pet owners also report the social benefits of owning a pet. Owning a pet can make it easier to connect with the community and start a conversation with a stranger.

According to Beyond Blue, pets positively impact your mental health in many ways including:

  • encouraging you to be more active
  • keeping you company and preventing loneliness
  • calming you down and reducing stress
  • not judging you
  • giving you a sense and purpose

When you look after a pet, it can also encourage you to develop a routine. Pets usually need to eat and sleep at regular times and looking after a pet can help to develop structure in your day as well. According to Beyond Blue, pets are also supportive factors that can help you manage depression and anxiety.

What to consider before getting a pet

While there are many benefits to getting a pet, there are also some downsides. It’s worth taking these into consideration before you adopt a furry friend into your family.

Some downsides to pet ownership can include:

  • ongoing costs of veterinary care
  • cleaning up after them
  • finding accommodation and care for them if you go away
  • barking or noise

It might be time to start considering a pet if you:

  • can provide a long-term comfortable and healthy environment
  • have enough money to pay for veterinary and food costs
  • have enough spare time to care for a pet
  • don’t travel frequently or can provide alternative accommodation and care when you’re away

Where to get a pet

It’s best to adopt a pet instead of buying one from a pet store. If you buy a dog from a pet store, online seller or flea market, you could well be buying from a puppy mill. Puppy mills are factory-style breeding facilities with very poor facilities and medical care. There’s also plenty of animals in shelters in Australia that need a home. The RSPCA received 132,657 animals into their animal shelters and adoption centres in 2017-2018.

To search for a pet, you can access the RSPCA’s adopt a pet database. The animals in this database have undergone health checks, and dogs and cats are already desexed, microchipped and vaccinated.

If you can’t look after a pet right now, you could consider alternatives like:

  • walking a friend’s dog
  • looking after a friend’s pet when they’re away
  • volunteering at a local animal shelter

Sources

https://au.reachout.com/articles/pets-and-mental-health

https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/7-ways-pets-improve-your-mental-health

https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/p/pets-and-mental-health

https://www.beyondblue.org.au/personal-best/pillar/supporting-yourself/pets-and-their-impact-on-mental-health

https://www.sane.org/information-stories/the-sane-blog/wellbeing/the-mental-health-benefits-of-owning-a-pet

https://headtohealth.gov.au/meaningful-life/connectedness/pets

https://kb.rspca.org.au/knowledge-base/what-are-the-health-benefits-of-pet-ownership/

https://kb.rspca.org.au/knowledge-base/how-many-pets-are-there-in-australia/

https://animalmedicinesaustralia.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/ANIM001-Pet-Survey-Report19_v1.7_WEB_high-res.pdf

https://bmcpsychiatry.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12888-016-1111-3

All information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only. The information provided should not be relied upon as medical or veterinary advice and does not supersede or replace a consultation with a suitably qualified healthcare or veterinary professional.

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