Pets can make a positive contribution to our overall well-being. The known benefits of pet companionship include:
- decreased risk of depression, heart disease and cancer;
- increased immunity and general physical and psychological health;
- increased self-esteem; and social support.
Pets encourage us to be active, to get up and get out and to establish healthy routines. Significantly, a pet can also help us to develop healthy relationships. Where an experience of childhood sexual abuse can cause us to become isolated, not daring to trust or risk ourselves physically and emotionally, pets can help us to learn that building a safe, caring and supportive relationship is possible. Pets help us to:
- Learn about safety and building trust
- Gain a sense of belonging (through shared experiences)
- Develop interpersonal management skills (communication, setting boundaries, controlling strong emotions)
- Accept physical closeness and affection
- Recognise our limits
Pets can provide healing and hope for an improved future. As one man commented:
“(my dog) taught me that it really is possible to be in a room with a single other living creature and have them do you no harm. In a way I really feel like she taught me to love.”
Pets become part of our community of support, they are often considered “as much a part of the family as any other person in the household”. It is no surprise that dogs are sometimes described as ‘man’s best friend’, there by your side, listening, offering support and encouragement through good times and bad.
If you are looking for a pet, speak with your local RSPCA. They will be caring for abandoned animals that will benefit from your support and will be able to offer professional advice on finding the right pet for you.