Mental Health Awareness Week: Helping Each Other

Mental Health Awareness Week: Helping Each Other

Mental Health Awareness Week: Helping Each Other

During this Mental Health Awareness Week, we explore the benefit of pet ownership, where the mental wellbeing of both carer and companion is equally important, and also mutually beneficial.

There is much evidence to show that companion animals can make a significant contribution to our mental health. They can help lower blood pressure, reduce anxiety and stress and be a great source of comfort and companionship. Their very being gives many owners purpose in their lives.

The benefit that our companion animals offer is as diverse as helping sensory integration with children with autism, to providing comfort and pleasure to the elderly in carehomes. Children often find it beneficial, or easier to talk to an animal than an adult, and those suffering with depression can be helped to relax simply by stroking and being with a companion animal.

But what about our companion animals themselves? Meeting the 5 welfare needs of health, behaviour, companionship, diet and environment are well established, but specific mental wellbeing can sometimes be overlooked.

So how do we look after the mental wellbeing of the animals in our care? And how do we know if our little ones are as healthy mentally as they are physically?

The requirements for mental wellbeing are different for each species, of course, though there are similarities across all. Doing what Mother Nature intended the species to do is a good place to start evaluating wellbeing; the act of foraging provides both physical and mental activity to rabbits, guinea pigs and others, for example.

Looking at your little ones overall behaviour will help too - a rabbit that binkies is expressing joy, rabbits can also ‘purr’ when being stroked (not to be confused with tooth grinding when in pain, of course), and a super-chilled bunny will stretch out in the ‘superman pose’ whilst snoozing. All are signs of a rabbit happy with its’ life.

There are many things that can be done to help your little ones’ daily life, and help improve their mental wellbeing. Even changing the layout of your little ones’ environment can provide a new challenge and stimulation - somewhere new to explore! But for some, routine can offer comfort; a rabbit that has come from a rescue situation can find benefit from meals at a set time, for example. And, of course, companionship, for many animals is where the real joy lies.

So take some time this Mental Health Awareness Weekend and see if you can do anything to help your little ones’ mental wellbeing - we are sure they will pay you back in kind!

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