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Mental Health & Wellbeing

Updated: Oct 14, 2018

We are a nation of animal lovers. The PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) report 2017 estimates that 51% of UK households own a pet. That’s a whopping 1.1 million rabbits, 9.3 million dogs and 10.3 million cats, cuddling up to owners, all around the country.

Yet, despite our devotion to our furry friends, many owners will not have considered how the healthy choices that we make for ourselves could be applied to the lives of our pets and benefit them too. There are lots of things we, as pet owners, can do to help keep our pets healthy and happy for longer, both physically and mentally.

Let's start with rabbits

In the wild, rabbits are social creatures that will run, jump, play and dig, all of which are limited if confined to a hutch for long periods of time. But there are lots of easy ways you can improve the quality of life for your pet rabbits. Here are some things to consider;

  • Rabbits should always be kept with a playmate or two and never alone.

  • A run with space for rabbits to play together and with toys to chew or climb on can help keep them busy while their owners are at work.

  • Allowing rabbits to explore outdoors in a secure garden is the ultimate adventure. Although careful supervision is required if you want to protect your vegetable patch!

Cats can be illusive

They run their own schedule and are well equipped to entertain themselves outdoors, climbing trees and stalking prey which keeps them fit and healthy. But house cats are still programmed to want to do those things which is why environment enrichment is so important for these intelligent animals.

If you were left alone in a house all day with nothing to do, you’d probably feel bored and frustrated. Over time, the stress of a mundane routine without stimulation or company could negatively impact your mental wellbeing and thirst for life. Your behaviour may change and you could feel anxious, lethargic or depressed. Lots of pet owners don’t realise that pets, put in the same situation, can suffer in a similar way to humans.

The good news is that, with a little bit of thought, you can easily provide environmental enrichment for your cat;

  • Cat trees for climbing will satisfy house cats with an adventurous nature.

  • Scratching posts for scent marking offer the opportunity to display natural behaviours.

  • Creative feeding regimes, to make house cats work for their food, are a clever way to get pets moving more.

  • Interactive play is a great cardio workout and can strengthen the bond between a cat and their owner… especially if it’s followed by a post-play chin rub.

Dogs can provide a great source of comfort and companionship

And, as dogs require daily exercise, dog ownership can also be a huge motivation to get active. Dogs can easily become bored if left alone for long periods of time. Getting outdoors provides a huge sensory experience for them, and a walk in the park is mutually beneficial for humans and dogs, both physically and mentally. What better encouragement to get active is there, than an excitable dog who can’t wait to get outside and make the most of life with you?


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