How home and pet sitting can improve your mental wellbeing
Posted on 10 October, 2018
It’s World Mental Health Day on 10th October – an annual event that seeks to raise awareness of mental health and how it can be improved.
Having pets is renowned as being good for mental wellbeing. Research[i] published this year in BMC Psychiatry suggests that cats and dogs kept as pets could be improving people’s mental health and might also contribute to the management of long-term mental health conditions.
The study also pointed out the negative aspects of pet ownership, including the practical and emotional burden of pet ownership and the psychological impact that losing a pet has.
Other studies have highlighted the physical health benefits of dog ownership.Pet food company, Butcher’s Pet Care[ii] found that dog owners are fitter and healthier than those without canine companions, with 73% saying they love the fact they get so much exercise looking after dogs.
Spending time with animals and pets has also been found to lower the levels of the stress hormone cortisol in bodies.[iii] In fact, non-pet owners are four times more likely to be diagnosed with clinical depression than pet owners.[iv]
However, you don’t have to be a pet owner to benefit from spending time with animals. Becoming a home and pet sitter can give you all the advantages of pet ownership, such as exercise and companionship, without the commitment of owning one.
Looking after pets is one of the main reasons that many of our homesitters choose to do the role. When we asked our homesitters what they enjoyed most about the job, an overwhelming 72% said that looking after people’s pets was the biggest perk.
Walking dogs can help improve mental health because fresh air and sunshine elevate the spirits and boosts vitamin D, plus taking dogs for walks gets people moving and makes them more physically fit. It’s also good for social interaction as you meet other dog walkers.
Having an active lifestyle, being fit and getting out more makes people less susceptible to mental health issues.
Sue and Gordon Heels, a retired couple in their mid-sixties from Bedfordshire have been home and pet sitting through us since 2010. One of the biggest attractions for them is looking after other people’s animals, especially dogs. They love dog walking as it gives them a chance to get out into the countryside and keep fit, whatever the weather.
Sue says, “Home and pet sitting provides us with a complete change of scene and we love spending quality time together taking the dogs for walks. One of our regular assignments is at a home surrounded by beautiful woodland where we take daily walks enjoying the wild flowers and the birdsong.”
Petting animals can also reduce stress, rhythmic stroking can be comforting to both parties and can release oxytocin, the hormone related to stress and anxiety relief.
Martin and Kristine Bell from Collingham in Nottinghamshire decided to start homesitting when they lost their beloved West Highland Terrier. While they love animals they decided not to get another dog so becoming homesitters seemed a good compromise.
Martin says, “There’s no better way of spending an evening than with a dog on your knee or by your feet to stroke while you’re reading, it gives us a great feeling of contentment.”
So if you want to boost your mental wellbeing why not give home and pet sitting a try?
Homesitters Ltd are currently recruiting, if you’d like to find out more about home and pet sitting visit www.homesitters.co.uk/become-a-sitter/