The Role of Cats (and Other Animals) in Managing Mental Health Challenges

15-21 Might is Psychological Well being Consciousness Week 2023. SCAS trustee Dr. Helen Brooks is a Senior Lecturer and Psychological Well being Analysis Group Lead on the College of Manchester. Right here, she talks about her analysis into the function of companion animals in supporting individuals to handle psychological well being difficulties.

For many people, our companion animals are an vital a part of our lives. In line with the 2023 PAW report, 53% of adults within the UK personal a pet. And 24% of adults personal a cat, making them one of the vital in style companion animals (along with canine).

Helen and her dog

Helen together with her canine Mylo

I dwell with two poodle crosses known as Mylo and Buzz. On these days the place I discover it laborious to get away from bed or to get outdoor, their hopeful little faces and someday insistent staring are simply the motivation I have to get going and to get exterior. Many individuals in my research derived related advantages from sharing their lives with cats, canine, and different companion species.

My analysis pursuits deal with how individuals handle well being situations by drawing help from the individuals, locations and issues round them. While conducting analysis on this space it turned obvious how a lot worth individuals have been inserting on their pets when it comes to serving to them within the day-to-day administration of their well being. So we determined to discover this in additional element!

The significance of relationships with companion animals is more and more being recognised. Documented advantages embrace lowered stress, improved bodily well being and elevated advantages from interacting with others. We have been occupied with discovering out whether or not individuals with psychological well being difficulties conferred related advantages from pet possession and whether or not there have been any distinctive features of those relationships when it comes to psychological well being administration.

We spoke to 54 individuals who had a prognosis of a critical psychological well being issue equivalent to Schizophrenia and Bipolar dysfunction and requested them who or what was vital to them when it comes to managing their psychological well being of their day-to-day lives. About half of the individuals we spoke to (n=24) recognized a pet who they felt helped with their psychological well being.

Throughout interviews, individuals described the assorted methods through which they felt that their pets contributed to their psychological well being which included offering emotional and sensible help and contributing to a constructive sense of id.

It’s vital to notice that individuals additionally raised some damaging features of pet possession which included the monetary and particular person assets that have been required to efficiently take care of a pet and the considerations round dropping a beloved companion animal. But it surely’s truthful to say that the constructive features far outweighed the negatives ones for the individuals we spoke to.

Emotional help

Individuals described how companion animals gave them emotional help by offering them with safe, intimate and dependable relationships. The truth that pets lived with them and have been available to supply calming and soothing help elevated the worth that individuals positioned on their pets on this regard.

“Sure, you get consolation from them, as a result of they lick you and all that, and so they knead you with their claws and purr at you and all that, so sure, they’re pretty” (proprietor of two cats).

A picture containing cat, indoor, computer, person

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Sensible help

While the contributions to emotional help have been anticipated from the outset given earlier analysis, the contributions pets have been thought of to make when it comes to offering sensible help to handle psychological well being have been fairly shocking. These included in our research talked about how pets distracted them from upsetting signs equivalent to listening to voices or hallucinations and suicidal ideation. In addition they felt that pets helped to distract them from the often-difficult relationships that they had with different individuals of their lives. They attributed these tough relationships to a lack of information on the a part of others about psychological well being.

“But when I’m right here and I’m having…having issues with voices and that, it does assist me within the sense, you already know, I’m not eager about the voices, I’m simply pondering of after I hear the birds singing” (proprietor of two birds)

“I feel it’s laborious actually if you haven’t had psychological sickness to know what the precise expertise is for somebody who has had the expertise. There’s like a chasm, deep chasm between us – a rising canyon. They’re on one facet of it and we’re on the opposite facet of it. We’re sending smoke indicators to one another to try to perceive one another however we don’t at all times”. (cat proprietor)

Constructive sense of id

Pets have been recognized as offering a very vital type of routine. For instance, canine might present encouragement for train and different animals supplied vital routines when it comes to feeding, grooming and caring for companion animals. This routine was thought of to be vital for a person’s wellbeing and sense of id. Pets have been additionally thought of to supply non-judgemental and unconditional love and acceptance which was typically not accessible from the individuals round them.

“And I simply try to ensure that I stroll him, and that, within the mornings….however typically I can’t be bothered to do this, however then I feel….I..I take into consideration, you already know, that it’s not truthful if he doesn’t go” (canine proprietor).

“They [pets] don’t have a look at the scars in your arms, or they don’t query issues, and so they don’t query the place you’ve been” (canine proprietor)

A hand petting a cat

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Importantly, regardless of the numerous worth that individuals on this research positioned on their relationships with companion animals these have been typically not recognised by or integrated into discussions with well being care professionals. This meant that individuals have been typically very involved about what would occur to companion animals if that they had to enter hospital or the place unable to take care of them for a time frame. Equally, individuals felt it was a missed alternative for well being professionals to get to know them higher which could even have therapeutic advantages when it comes to their psychological well being.

A cat lying on a cat tree

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SCAS is the UK’s main human-companion animal bond organisation by way of funding analysis, offering schooling, elevating consciousness, encouraging greatest observe, and influencing the event of insurance policies and practices that help the human-companion animal bond. For extra particulars take a look at our web site at

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