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It’s official – pets are good for us!

Forget expensive therapy, fitness regimes and leisure activities, according to more than 60% of the UK population, owning a pet is a key factor in reducing stress, providing us with entertainment and giving us all the love, affection and companionship we require.

This is the result of a new report commissioned by the Pet Care Trust which has identified once and for all that pets ARE good for us – and with Crufts just around the corner, attention will be fixed firmly on our four-legged friends.

The survey found that 35% believe pets help to lower blood pressure, 37% believe they help to fight depression and 30% stated they can speed up the recovery process – and 21% even go on to state they believe owning a pet can actually reduce visits to the doctor! As around half the population owns a pet, this report shows them to be a key consideration in the health of the nation.

The report also confirmed that while the majority of us opt for dogs and cats – and cats are still in the lead by a whisker! – pets such as birds or fish (there are more pet fish in the UK than households) are just as beneficial at relieving stress and anxiety.

Perhaps not surprisingly, opinions did vary between the sexes, with 43% of women stating that pets were an important emotional crutch, compared to 28% of men. Almost three-quarters of women also highlighted unconditional love as a key benefit, with only 58% of men agreeing.

Family was an important consideration for men though. 51% said pets brought their family closer together. A quarter of men and women also thought owning a pet helps children to perform better at school and half thought owning a pet teaches children responsibility and kindness.

Age also varied the results. Issues such as recovery from illness, greater independence, reduced blood pressure and ‘filling an emotional gap’ all increased by approximately 15% in the 55+ age bracket.

Impact

Ken Burgess director, Pet Care Trust said: "I think people have understood the social and companionship benefits of pets for a long time, but what this report has highlighted is the real health benefits pets can bring.

"Our increasingly stressful, fast-paced lives have led us to need and rely on our family and home life for ‘time-out’. Pets have become an increasingly important part of this. Though many of us are busier, we also often feel isolated and removed. Pets have been shown to increase our social ability and our capability to connect with other humans.

"Certain benefits are obviously more prevalent with some animals than others. For example, the ownership of dogs and horses will have more impact on fitness than cats and fish.

However this report has clearly shown all pets, whatever their shape and size - have a major positive impact on our general health and wellbeing – we can now say it’s official, pets really are man’s best friend!"

Key survey statistics

50% of people look to their pet for comfort and support in times of emotional need
29% of people said their pets help them to meet new people and make friends
1/4 look to their pet to fill an emotional gap
1/3 say their pets make them feel needed and important
Pets teach children responsibility and kindness – 26% believe this helps them perform better at school
1/2 those aged 55-plus believe that owning a pet lowers blood pressure
1:5 agreed owning a pet reduces visits to the doctor