Thursday, 2 April 2015

Animals and wellbeing – part three

Over the last few months we’ve looked at the various benefits our interactions with the animal world have on our general wellbeing. This month, we're turning the tables and looking at how we can be of benefit to our animal's wellbeing ...

We’ve proven that our animal friends do us the world of good. It only seems fair, then, that we do everything in our power to return the favour – and that includes making them the priority for a little while each day. It’s easy to take our pets for granted, especially when there are other things going on in our lives to occupy our time and attention. With work deadlines, money issues and other day-to-day worries vying for our attention, a game of fetch in the garden may end up being bottom of our to-do list. But perhaps it shouldn’t be. After all, a break from all of those worries won’t just benefit your dog … it’ll benefit you, too!

There are lots of ways to enrich our pet’s life, and they’re not too far removed from our regular routine. For instance, instead of your normal walkies route, try taking your dog somewhere new. Take your time, allow your dog time to sniff all the things you’d normally encourage them to pass unsniffed. These scent walks provide vital mental stimulation in your dog, as well as encourage natural behaviours. This valuable time will give you an insight into your dog’s behaviour – what makes him tick, what he enjoys – and will certainly strengthen the bond between you. 

If you’re a cat owner, it’s time to take a look at your home. Cats naturally like to be up high, and ensuring your home is filled with lots of tall, safe, cat-accessible vantage points will make your cat feel at ease. It also gives her a space of her own, away from other pets, children (and even adults!) who might be giving them unwanted attention.

If you’ve got multiple cats, make sure they have separate feeding stations and litter boxes. Sharing these commodities can cause your cats  needless stress, so ensuring they have their own space is vital for their wellbeing.

Regardless of what kind of pet you have, it’s important to set aside time each day to just be together, having fun. Our pets rely on us for food, warmth and comfort, but this in itself is not enough. They also rely on us to play with them, to entertain them, and to love them. We’ve already seen the benefits that interaction with animals can give us, and the same is true for the animals we interact with. Playing fetch, bouncing a cat-teaser, time in a hamster ball or out in a rabbit run ensures our pets are active – physically and mentally – and, most importantly, enjoying their lives with us. After all, we chose to have these animals in our lives, and the least we can do is ensure they get to enjoy the simple pleasure of doing something together, with us, each and every day.

Animals do so much for us. Their antics entertain us, they comfort us when we need them to, and they keep us safe. Their very presence is uplifting, and they help keep our minds and our bodies active throughout our lives. It’s easy to forget, but they do all of this without being asked, and with no expectation of a reward. Put simply, they love us unconditionally.

We can learn a lot from our animal friends, and we can start by applying their own philosophy to the way we treat them. By paying attention to their needs, their wants and their natural behaviours, we can enrich their lives, make each day fun, and do a lot for their mental and physical wellbeing. It’s the very least we can do.

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