When people talk about adding a pet to their family, they often think of puppies and kittens or slightly older animals, while senior pets can be forgotten or neglected. However, senior pets have several advantages over younger ones, including when it comes to mental health.
Mental illness affects about one-in-five Americans, from puberty through adulthood. And more than 11 million Americans experience a serious mental illness in any given year. Whether you have occasional stress or anxiety, or more serious depression, pets can satisfy several emotional and fundamental needs that every human requires.
1. They Have Personality
Many people don’t think about the emotional effects of a pet’s personality. A puppy or kitten are simply curious and just want to play, whereas a senior pet's personality is already developed, which gives you the opportunity to find a pet which more appropriately aligns with your own personality.
2. They Make Good Sleeping Partners
The second leading mental health illness in the United States is insomnia. Sleep deprivation and sleep disruption prevents your body from being able to organize, file, and manage your emotions, thoughts, and memories. This also limits your bodies ability to relax, repair, and recover from injury or inflammation. A study by the Mayo Clinic shows that sleeping with your pet actually increases the amount of time that pet owners slept during the night.
The reason that sleeping with your pet is so effective is because, for adults, sleeping with your pet provides similar comfort, warmth, and security responses that a baby feels in a swaddle or being warmly cuddled by their parents. The benefit of sleeping with a more mature dog is that it is less likely to whine or want to be let out in the middle of the night, compared to a puppy. They already know the drill — at night, it’s time to rest.
3. Pets Help You Cope with Depression
Pets can help people reverse and minimize the long-term effects of anxiety and depression by providing basic human comforts, such as touching and being touched. For example, petting and affection from a pet triggers a chemical response in your body, creating a soothing effect when you are stressed or anxious.
In addition to the therapeutic need of touch, pets also provide companionship and social activity, which are both fundamental human needs, as well as a leading concerns among those who experience mental health concerns.
4. They Force You to Get Off the Couch
There is a direct link between exercise and an improved response to mental health concerns. Exercise triggers your mind to release chemicals (endorphins) that help you to relax, feel good, and improve your confidence by enabling positive thoughts. Your pet, whether you are playing around the house or going for a walk, can provide the physical stimulation your body needs.