Having a furry companion in dark times can make the world of a difference.

Photo by Bonnie Kittle on Unsplash

I spend a lot of time alone. Even before this whole social distancing thing. My husband works away and I work from home. I work out at home. Home is my haven and my biggest comfort comes from my two adorable cats — I often call them “my coworkers.”

If loneliness is starting to have a negative effect on you, it may be time to get a pet. For one thing, I promise you, it’s not weird to recreate the regular day-to-day coffee chat with a pet that can’t talk back. It’s more fun because you can design the whole conversation – both the question and the reply!

Wait — does that make me sound crazy? I’ll chat about it with my co-workers on our next coffee break.

To give you some background, I rescued my first cat when my husband was working in Newfoundland. I couldn’t persuade him to let me get a cat until a friend of mine asked me to cat sit. Long story short, seven years later, we’re still cat sitting, and I’m forever grateful for that. 

Having a companion helped me through the many long, lonely nights in my apartment. It offered comfort knowing I wasn’t alone and helped me feel safe, even though my 10 lb. cat was useless if someone broke down my door — but having him offered that sense of security I needed. 

And after my husband moved back home, we bought a house and I adopted our second cat so my first cat could have friend and feel the same security and comfort when we were at work. Yes, I got a pet for my pet and it was the best decision we ever made.

It’s hard to explain until you experience it for yourself, but there’s something special about having a pet, especially in times like this.

I know not everyone is a cat person, but there’s a pet for everyone! Not only do they offer comfort, but pets help you to adopt a healthier lifestyle. Yes, even a betta fish can help you live a better lifestyle. When you step up to care for a living thing, whatever that is, it will be reflected through your actions. 

While I recommend pets for all, it’s especially helpful for someone who is feeling anxious or lonely. A 2019-2020 National Pet Owners Survey found that about 7.5 million households in Canada own a pet; and being around pets can produce a chemical chain reaction in the brain that increases the neurotransmitter serotonin, which helps to make us calmer in these stressful times.

If you already own a pet, you probably don’t need any convincing, but there is a long list of benefits for having a pet. Here are a few reasons why I believe having a pet will improve your quality of life.

COMFORT

Pets have superpowers. I know it. It’s not scientifically proven but I think it’s pretty obvious.

Have you ever noticed that when you’re upset or lonely, your pet comes to comfort you? I call that their empathic capabilities. They can feel your pain and work to help you heal. When we’re feeling anxious or stressed, your pet knows how to comfort you — and that’s a true gift.

FITNESS

Pets help to increase your physical wellness. Ok, your turtle or my 20 lb. rescue cat aren’t the most motivational for a healthy lifestyle, but if you invest time in an active pet, such as a dog, it will increase your activity level as well. Having a pet with an increased activity level will force you to get outside and go for a walk. Not to mention, regularly playing with your pet helps with reducing your stress levels!

COMPANIONSHIP

Above all other benefits, pets provide companionship that is essential when you’re feeling alone or depressed. The National Poll on Healthy Aging (USA, 2018) found that, among respondents who had pets, 88% said their pets helped them enjoy life, and 86% said their pets made them feel loved.

STRESS RELIEF

As we are bombarded with media designed to invoke stress and anxiety, there’s relief in having a pet to help you relax. Relief can come from the simple stroke of their soft fur, or in the case that your pet is a turtle, their hard shell. The sense of touch brings stress relief. Research shows that people who interact with animals experience a boost in levels of oxytocin, the hormone that promotes love and trust. This is linked to reduced blood pressure and heart rate.

PURPOSE

Lastly, having a pet brings purpose to your life. It’s not only about your own wellbeing anymore. It’s about theirs and that will help you to get up and care for them. As you do, you will care for yourself as well!

More Inspiration: Check out this great article on daily habits for happiness.

Author: Jessica Clerke is the digital editor for HUM@Nmedia, the parent brand for Optimyz Magazine. She is also a writer nd is based in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

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