It is well-known how animals affect our psyche. The benefits of swimming with dolphins or the positive effect horses may have on disabled or mentally impaired persons will be familiar examples for most of us.

Similarly, during the lockdowns and our obligatory “house arrests” it has been reported the domestic pets found in more than half of all British homes have helped up to 90% of family members reduce stress and improve their emotional wellbeing. So much so, this had led to a surge in new pet ownership, both through adoption and the purchase of pets which coincided with the first UK lockdown in March 2020 and has been ongoing since then.

Touching, stroking, grooming, embracing or simply engaging with an animal or bird (or even a reptile) can quickly soothe and calm a person, reducing anxiety and other life concerns. The friendship and affection of pet dogs reduce solitude and also spur their owners on to take them outdoors for walks, providing healthy balanced exercise, proven to enhance one’s state of mind and general feelings of wellbeing. Such walks are also an ideal opportunity for some social interaction as pets provide a bridge of communication with other walkers. There are many established couples today who owe their relationships to chatting about a cute doggy the first time they met.

Petting a dog or cat has scientifically shown reductions in cortisol (a hormonal stress-indicator) as well as blood pressure. And to relieve loneliness and depression. At the same time, physical touch will relax and soothe your furry friend too.

The latest fad in the news is hugging a cow. This started in Holland and has now spread across the world. In the USA farmers are charging $75 an hour for spending one-on-one time with a cow, and the “proof of the pudding” is how fast this craze has grown, celebs and everyone hopping aboard. Each to his/her own, we might say? Cuddling a cow will apparently also lower your heart rate, blood pressure and stress level.

Pets add to the self-esteem of children and aid in their positive emotional development, including a sound sense of responsibility. Pets are part of our everyday lives as well as part of our households. They give us friendship and emotional support.

It is important though that we realise and accept upfront that taking on a pet is a lifelong commitment. Well, at least for the life of the pet. Unless we are prepared to make this commitment of between 10 – 20 years, we should not adopt a cat or dog. A lesser commitment, at least as far as longevity goes but otherwise still the same, will apply to domestic rabbits (8 – 12 years), guinea pigs (5 – 6 years, but up to 10 years), hamsters (2 – 5 years), and mice (2 years). Our responsibility includes daily feeding and clean water, training and, importantly, loving our pet during the whole of its life. Knowing what is expected of us will help in making that crucial choice of the pet most suited to our level of commitment.

Having a pet costs money, not just for food and their housing but also potential medical expenses. Our commitment includes letting the dog out for bathroom breaks and daily exercise in the form of walks. At least 15 minutes a day of time needs to be set aside for the personal care of each pet, even if just a mouse. Dogs need training to learn how to fit in and interact with human beings, and cats too can be trained. They need to be patiently and compassionately trained and disciplined on how to behave for them to function at their best. As with children, gentle positive reinforcement and rewards for good behaviour always work best.

Anticipating the unanticipated will mean our new pet provides more pleasure and less pain. Puppies have accidents, from peeing on our valued rug to chewing up our furniture. Our new furry feline might not know where it is allowed to scratch or climb in our home, or perhaps throw up on the carpet. Some cats “spray” to mark their new territory, not only smelly but certainly not appreciated if they say choose a cushion as their favourite new pillow. Understand that our brand-new buddy is totally unaware we consider these things “misbehaviour”. Know upfront that it is our responsibility to teach the new pet to better “behave” in the best and most loving, caring way for our new furbaby.

These factors all need serious contemplation and planning before we simply dive in and buy or adopt our new pet. Our commitment to this new pet is for life, not just the life of the coronavirus saga until things get back to “normal” again, but for the entire life of the pet we have chosen. And please remember, for the best, most loving care of your pets when you are away, we have the top, most professional, insured, friendly, reliable and capable sitters for you at House and Home Sitters.

David Price