The ongoing uncertainty surrounding the recent Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak will no doubt cause disruption to our usual routine and reduce the amount of social contact we have – preventing us from doing some of the things we enjoy which helps protect and maintain our mental wellbeing.
With today, March 20, being International Day of Happiness, we thought we’d highlight the importance that our furry friends play in our lives as well as share some tips on how to keep them happy and stimulated during these uncertain times.
You can’t beat that fuzzy feeling of returning home after a long stressful day to be welcomed by a loving, attentive furry friend. Having a pet is great for our mental health, wellbeing and happiness.
Whether it’s the extra exercise we get from a long walk with the dog, the anti-stress chemicals released by stroking a cat or the entertainment provided by our rabbits - animals help to reduce anxiety, relax and generally just feel good.
However, it’s not just a feeling, it’s supported by scientific evidence. For a long time, researchers have explored how and why our mental wellbeing is improved by having an animal – considering the impact our pets can have during bereavement, for the elderly and even for people who are homeless.
A study carried out by the Mental Health Foundation with Cats Protection is 2011 found that 87% of people who owned a cat felt it had a positive impact on their wellbeing (https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/p/pets-and-mental-health).
Due to recent events and the possibility that many of us will be in self-isolation, this will no doubt be affecting our mental health as well as that of our pets. So, how can you provide additional stimulation to four-legged friend at a time when outside access is restricted:
You can exercise with your pet at home.
Why not try setting up agility activities or teaching your dog something new.
Play games with your pet.
Interacting with your dog or cat will help stimulate their mind and also help to strengthen your bond. Consider something you could throw, drag or swing to get their attention.
Buy new toys and rotate with their existing ones
There are lots of interactive toys available for both cats and dogs which you could buy ahead of isolation – or even order online and have delivered. By rotating the new and old toys you will keep your pet interested in what they’re playing with.
Play hide and seek
Hiding treats and toys around your home will not only provide mental stimulation but also important exercise at a time when outside access is restricted.
Provide access to light and a window
If you have access to a garden, your pet can continue to get fresh air, light and exposure to different sounds and smells. Set-up a space for them by a window so they can watch the world go by.
Play Pup Fiction
Spotify have launched a ‘My Dog’s Favourite Podcast’ – which has up to 5 hours of ‘soothing sounds and friendly chat’ which is an ‘aural treat’ for your dog. Check it out.