Oxfordshire Branch

Adoptober – Pet ownership helps mental wellbeing

This month is the RSPCA's annual rehoming campaign 'Adoptober' and this World Mental Health Day we’re shining a spotlight on the wellbeing benefits of the pets who share our homes and lives. 

From our work and personal lives to our health and wellbeing, the last couple of years have presented a huge number of challenges and impacted on many people's mental health. Thankfully, for many, pets have provided an amazing source of support, from being a stay-at-home companion, exercise buddy, a great listener, or simply our reason to get up in the morning.

Pet owners said their pets helped their mental health

According to a survey of UK pet owners carried out in March 2022, around 87% of dog owners, 82% of cat owners and 78% of rabbit owners stated that their pets made them mentally healthier.

The RSPCA's Head of Companion Animals, Dr Sam Gaines said:

‘This month is Adoptober for the RSPCA but October 10 is also World Mental Health Day and we want to shine a light on the wonderful benefits we can enjoy from sharing our homes with rescue pets. Studies show that pets can have benefits to our mental health and wellbeing, and many have found their animals a source of comfort and companionship during [and since] the pandemic.

But research also shows that our pets can also mirror our stress as they are very capable of responding to human emotional expression, can sense how we are feeling, so it is also really important to consider how our behaviour and lifestyle may impact on their own mental health. 

It's really important to understand your pets' body language and behaviour so you can recognise when your pet is stressed out. Sometimes if your pet develops behaviour problems, such as attention-seeking behaviour or clinginess, it can be a sign of fear or frustration.’

This Adoptober we want to celebrate the benefits that rescue pets bring to our lives and also raise awareness of the enormous difference we can make to their lives by highlighting what you can do to also help their mental health and wellbeing.

Nine benefits pets bring to our mental health and wellbeing:

  1. Vital companionship for those who live alone or are spending time working from home alone 
  2. A reason to get out of the house, to exercise daily and keep to a routine
  3. They encourage us to be sociable and chat to others we meet on walks
  4. They are calming and relaxing to stroke or groom, which releases oxytocin, a hormone that brings us closer together with the people around us and can make us feel more confident
  5. They can build confidence in new situations and provide a great talking point
  6. They make us responsible for another's life, health and wellbeing
  7. They give us an ongoing project to focus on - training and teaching them tricks
  8. Pets encourage regular breaks from screens, which can help our wellbeing
  9. In the case of dogs, even when we just look into their eyes - our bodies release oxytocin, a hormone that brings about bonding between individuals as well as helping us feel more optimistic and lowering blood pressure.

Aisling Traynor, Head of Advice & Training at Mental Health UK, said:

‘There are so many benefits of looking after a pet, from forging a sense of companionship to helping us maintain a sense of routine and making sure we stay active and spend time outside. There's been no doubt that pets can help to lift our spirits if we're in a good position to give a home to a rescue animal. That's why we're supporting the RSPCA's Adoptober to raise awareness of the benefits rescue pets can bring to our lives - and how we can all make a difference to their wellbeing too.’