Call us now on

0800 201 4811

Pets and Psychological Well-being

Corrine Sweet

Corrine Sweet

Author

Lifestyle

Psychologist, psychotherapist, writer and broadcaster Corrine Sweet explores the impact that pets can have on our psychological well-being. Read on to find out more.

Pets and Psychological Well-being: Pets can make you happy.

“As I sit writing this blog, my two tabby/Burmese cats, Mackerel and Cappuccino, are sitting beside me on the desk, like furry bookends. One is purring quietly and other is licking her paws. It is bliss.

I am not alone in loving to live with my two pets. They greet me at the door when I come home (yes, really, cats do that, not just dogs). They cuddle up beside me on the bed, bookending me again from either side and they hop up on my lap anytime, anywhere. They follow me into the garden when I prune or have breakfast, stretching out in the sun, yawning. They are my feline shadows.

It has long been established that domestic animals can give us a great deal of solace and happiness, especially as we age. I am fairly newly divorced, and my daughter is at University, so the ‘empty nest’ has not been so horribly empty, thanks to my cat companions.

Whether you are in midlife, like me, or later life, a pet can create an enormous sense of comfort, especially after a loss, a marital breakdown or a change of circumstance.  Pets make a house, a home. Even the humble goldfish, or tropical aquarium, can soothe nerves and create a sense of peace.

Dogs are the most obviously gregarious of pets, and people bond with them, emotionally and psychologically, as they demand regular exercise, feeding and care.  Stories abound of dogs sniffing out their owners’ illnesses, or being able to sense their mood swings. For owners, this sense of relationship can offer a valuable service in lonely or difficult times.

There are physical benefits too.

The benefit of having to walk a dog or dogs regularly means older owners have to get out the house, get some cardio-vascular stimulation and actually chat to people in the park. Late love may even bloom over doggie stories and antics!

Stroking a cat or dog can also lower our rising blood-pressure, and stir oxytocin and endorphins in our blood streams. This means having a pet, and cuddling or stroking it, can actually improve our own sense of wellbeing. Oxytocin is the same hormone released through breast-feeding or kissing: it makes us feel good.

Cats, dogs, horses, goats, rabbits, even small pets, like hamsters and goldfish, will respond to good, humane treatment. It gives us a sense of connection, as humans, despite the objects of our love being animal.  We are human animals after all.

The relationship people have with their pets is not to be ridiculed or maligned. It is true many of us choose pets (dogs especially) who look like us. But this is really part of our need to have a family, a community, somewhere to belong. It gives us a sense of place, and a sense of meaning and purpose, in life.

Of course, some people feel they can’t have a pet as they can’t face the loss. It is true that loss in inevitable, just as for Shula in The Archers, who is about to lose her favourite horse. Pets’ lifespans are simply shorter and we have to accept we will feel grief at some point.

However, the pleasure and meaning we get in the present far outweighs the grief we will experience. If we can accept that our dear pets die, we can grieve, and simply start again – after a decent spate of mourning – with a new puppy or kitten.  Don’t feel bad about loving your animals, or doting on them. I think it is well-established that the psychological benefits far outweigh the stray hairs and poop scoops.  

I had a wonderful rescue cat called Splat, who simply moved in with me, many years ago. He chose me. I’d always been allergic to cats, and found that now as an adult, my allergy had reduced. Splat got me through a difficult time in my life, nursing my parents to their end.

When he died, the whole family grieved, but after a few months we missed the companionship and so took on our two furry rascals, who had been abandoned by their mother outside a dry cleaners. They were three weeks old and barely filled the palm of my hand.  

Thirteen years later, they are still with me and central to my family life. I send pictures of them to my daughter at Uni. She even pays a £1 to charity once a month to pet puppies, as the University understands the need for animals in students’ lives as a de-stress factor. The first thing my daughter does, when she comes home, is rush towards the cats and pick them up: they are family after all.

About Corinne Sweet.

Corinne Sweet is a well-established and respected writer, broadcaster, psychologist and psychotherapist. Corinne has a long journalistic background, as ‘agony aunt’ in magazines, newspapers and on radio and TV. She was a Big Brother Psychologist and trained on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Woman’s Hour’. She still appears regularly on TV and Radio as an expert. Corinne has published over sixteen books, including self-help titles, such as How to say No (Amazon), The Mindfulness Journal and The Anxiety Journal (Pan Macmillan). She has been a teacher and university lecturer, and campaigner for women’s rights, is a screenwriter, and is currently Chair of the Books Committee of the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain. Corinne works as an individual and couples psychotherapist in the Barnsbury Therapy Rooms in North London.

 

Start the search for your pet friendly retirement property.
Like this article? Subscribe to receive updates...
Subscribe to receive notifications when we post new articles to our online magazine.
By subscribing to these updates you’re agreeing to receive email updates when new articles are published to the McCarthy & Stone online magazine.
We’ll never send you spam or sell your details. You can unsubscribe at any time.

Related Articles

Lifestyle

Sheffield – The Steel Centre of the World

Famed for its industry and innovation, the green, modern cityscape now replaces the smoking chimneys from the industrial revolution. There’s a friendly, independent and alternative spirit that can be hard to find in other cities alongside a thriving cultural scene. ...Read more

Lifestyle

The Top 11 British Hidden Gems

Where are the best locations in the UK to visit... that you've probably not heard of? We've ranked the best hidden gems around Britain, that are easy to access, and offer a great weekend away with the family. ...Read more

Lifestyle

Do Pets Make You Happier?

Whether you're a pet owner or have a pet free home, animals of all kinds have been proven to improve the happiness of their human counterparts. To find out more McCarthy & Stone conducted a survey to see how pets enrich their owners lives. Here are the results! ...Read more

Lifestyle

Let’s Dance 

It’s sociable and fun, and it’s good for your health and your brain – time to put on your dancing shoes  ...Read more

Lifestyle

The Thought Behind Your Home

Prospective homeowners will be delighted to know all aspects of their new living space – including the communal areas – have been considered during the design process, helping to make their lives more comfortable and a little easier  ...Read more

Lifestyle

Making your memories last forever

It’s never been easier to keep your most precious memories alive. From personalised photo albums and keepsakes to specially commissioned biographies and films, there are many ways to create a very special legacy – and have a lot of fun while you’re doing it. Here are a few ideas to inspire you  ...Read more

Lifestyle

5 Recipes For A Royal Wedding

We look into the perfect recipes to pair with a royal wedding. We've picked out the most delicious, as well as the quintessentially British for the special occasion! ...Read more

Lifestyle

The Best Golf Courses in the UK

Now is a great opportunity to get out on the fairway and get practising. We've looked into some of the best golf courses in the UK, including golf courses in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to get you ready and eager to tee off this spring and summer. ...Read more

Lifestyle

Small is Beautiful - Balcony Gardening

Creating a beautiful outdoor space on a balcony can bring a lot of pleasure to you and your visitors for minimum effort. Balcony gardening offers the joy of plants but without the work that usually goes with a garden – you shouldn’t have to do much weeding for a start, you won’t get slugs, and there’s no lawn to worry about! ...Read more

Lifestyle

Advice For Low Maintenance Gardening

Let’s be honest, we’d all love a gorgeous garden that would blossom with just the wave of a weed-wand. But I can’t be the only one who finds that a few minutes pottering turns into hours of pruning, trimming and raking at times.  ...Read more

Lifestyle

Great British Outdoor Experiences the Whole Family Can Enjoy

Finding an activity that the whole family can enjoy together can sometimes feel like a tall order, especially amongst the hectic schedules of our day to day lives. However, spending time together in the great outdoors is the perfect way to leave behind those digital distractions and create some precious family memories that will last a lifetime. ...Read more

Lifestyle

Inspirational Retirement Stories

You may wonder just how you will spend your retirement or worry that you will not find enough activities to fill your time. This can be far from the truth, these active retirees share their inspirational retirement stories  ...Read more

Lifestyle

How Do You Want To Live Your Life?

Enjoying a fulfilling retirement isn’t just about where you live. How you live plays an equally important role when it comes to getting the most out of what ought to be an extremely rewarding time of life.  ...Read more

Lifestyle

Dating for over 50s: how to find love in later life

Love in later life can seem daunting. If you’ve been married for some years and are recently divorced or widowed, looking for love is a whole lot different today than it was back when you were young. But that’s no reason to be put off – you’re never too old to fall in love! ...Read more

Lifestyle

Behind the Scenes

There’s a vast team working all year round at McCarthy & Stone to make sure that every homeowner in every development receives the best of the best. Here we talk to three of them… ...Read more

Lifestyle

How we help every step of the way

McCarthy & Stone knows that communication is key when it comes to making a decision as big as moving into a retirement development, which is why it has staff ready to talk through the process, says Rachel Halliwell ...Read more

Lifestyle

Return of the Spider Plant

Remember when trailing greenery hung from macramé pot holders in every bay window in the country? Well, the good news is house plants are back in vogue. Here’s how to make the most of them ...Read more

Lifestyle

Inspirational Generation

Are you member of the Inspirational Generation? We want to hear your stories. Enter our competition and tell us why - you could be in with the chance of winning £2,000! ...Read more

Lifestyle

Starting a new chapter in your life

Many people feel apprehensive about selling their family home, says Rachel Halliwell. Yet McCarthy & Stone managers see the worry and weight being lifted from the shoulders of homeowners once they move in. It’s like being on a permanent luxury holiday, said one ...Read more

Lifestyle

What we don't miss about being younger

The study by leading retirement housebuilder, McCarthy and Stone, reveals sitting exams, enduring the daily commute and the stress of running a family, are among some of the things the older generation DO NOT miss about being younger. ...Read more

Lifestyle

The Teams Behind the Scenes

McCarthy & Stone has a vast team working round the clock to make sure that every homeowner in every development receives the best of the best. Here, we talk to three of the key players...

...Read more

Lifestyle

Behind the scenes: Interior design

A lot of work and careful planning goes into creating the beautiful interiors of a McCarthy & Stone development. Interior designer Hannah Gernon explains how she arrives at the finished results ...Read more

Lifestyle

Childhood memories at Waverley House

Mary Kent lived at the first McCarthy & Stone Development to be built, Waverley House in New Milton. Here, her granddaughter Tania Harland shares wonderful childhood memories of spending time there, which inspired her to work for McCarthy & Stone when a job opportunity came up 10 years ago. ...Read more

Lifestyle

5 gardening tools for the elderly

Whether you've been a gardening enthusiast for years or only recently discovered the joys of green fingers, getting your hands dirty in the garden can become more difficult in later life. We look at tools that can make this hobby easier. ...Read more

Lifestyle

GrandFest

Come to GrandFest and join us throughout June and July for a celebration of heritage skills in partnership with the Royal Voluntary Service. ...Read more

Lifestyle

A Date To Remember: 1977

It was a year of social unrest, high inflation, patriotism and punk rock. It was also the year that John McCarthy and Bill Stone built their first retirement apartments. As McCarthy & Stone celebrates its 40th anniversary, we take a look back at the highs and lows of 1977. ...Read more

Lifestyle

40 Years On...

Celebrate 40 years of retirement living solutions with McCarthy & Stone. Discover how we are commemorating this special event here! ...Read more

Lifestyle

Finding Love In Later Life

They'd both lost their partners 9 years ago and moved to a McCarthy & Stone development, but little did Ann and Robin know they were about to start something very special...

...Read more

Lifestyle

Frontline Extra

We are excited about the next few months! Mother’s Day, the feel good movie of the year could well be perfect for your mom this Mother's Day! ...Read more

Lifestyle

Finding love

Meeting someone new in later life, for companionship and love, can seem impossible, but these couples show that it can happen! ...Read more