Pets are good for your health

August 24, 2016

The joy of having a pet is not new to most of us, with more than 2 million Kiwis sharing their home with at least one cat or dog.

Spending time playing with your pet or simply patting them can lift your spirits, help you to relax and de-stress from a busy day, animal experts say.

"Pets not only provide us with unconditional love and a welcoming tail-wag when we walk through the door each day; they make fantastic companions and help improve the general wellbeing of us humans," says veterinarian Dr Rod Sharpin.

"Whether it’s by making us get off the couch for a daily walk, introducing us to strangers at the local dog park, or teaching us patience during puppy-school classes, pets add value to our lives in a huge variety of ways."

Cat-loving Kiwis

According to Roy Morgan Research, 58% of New Zealanders have at least one cat and/or dog in their home. Felines are most popular, with 1.6 million Kiwis (45%) sharing with a cat and 1.1 million (31%) with a dog.

New Zealand Companion Animal Council (NZCAC) says the nation has one of the highest rates of pet ownership globally when compared with other countries, such as Australia, where Roy Morgan Research reports 38% of the population lives with a dog, 23% cohabit with a feline and 12% of households include at least one of each.

Although cats and dogs are the most popular companion animals in New Zealand, they are outnumbered by fish, with 11% of households owning an average of nine fish. “The popularity of fish is not surprising considering the huge rise in apartment living and increased proportion of people renting the property they live in,” NZCAC’s report states.

A boost for body and mind

A recent survey of more than 700 owners showed 86% of people believe pets give more meaning to their lives and 78% believe their dog provides a good excuse to “get out of the house and exercise”.

“There’s nothing more motivating than a pair of eager eyes beckoning you out for a walk or run,” says CEO Shane Young, whose organisation PETstock conducted the survey in Australia. “Pets offer non-judgmental, unconditional love and bring so much joy and connection to people’s lives, from a house full of dogs down to one tiny mouse, pets are invaluable for happiness.”

Other survey findings include:

- More than 75% of owners walk their dog more than three times a week and 71% feel guilty if they don’t walk their dog every day.

- More than 90% of owners believe their pet makes them laugh and about 90% of owners feel loved and become happier when they walk in the door after a long day.

“In addition to the physical benefits owning a pet might bring us, like encouraging us to go for a daily walk or run, our pets are also there for us when we need an ear to listen or a cuddle after a hard day,” Dr Sharpin says.

If you're considering owning a pet, be sure to contact your local SPCA.

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