Mental health is a hot topic right now, and May is mental health month! In honor of mental health month, I’m going to try to put into words something that most pet owners are quite aware of already. This is the feeling you get from your cat sleeping on your chest, or the happiness you feel playing ball with your dog. I could spout a bunch of statistics about the impact of animals on mental health, but those of us who have pets inherently know that our mental health is bolstered by the presence of animals in our lives. We don’t need to know the scientific facts associated with pet ownership, we experience it every day.
I personally own an exceptionally naughty cat. When I retrieve him from whatever closet he has gotten locked in for the upteenth time, I sometimes wonder if he’s making my hair turn gray. The truth is, his antics make me smile and laugh every day, and now he makes my son laugh too. Our house just wouldn’t be the same without our naughty orange cat. Most pet owners feel similarly attached to both the good and bad of their pets, and are bursting with stories of the entertainment, love, companionship, and amusement our animals bring to our homes.
Zoetis, a maker of human and animal medications, has a name for this. They call it “The Pet Effect”. They, along with The Human Animal Bond Research Institute, have done studies on the health benefits associated with the human animal bond. (Let’s dwell for just a second on the fact that there is a legitimate research institute dedicated to the human animal bond. THERE’S A RESEARCH INSTITUTE DEVOTED TO THE HUMAN ANIMAL BOND!) Research has shown that pet ownership decreases cholesterol, reduces obesity, lowers blood pressure, helps in dealing with PTSD, reduces the symptoms of depression, reduces childhood allergies and asthma, and improves mental health. Pets improve mental health by reducing feelings of loneliness, increasing sense of purpose, encouraging physical activity, and providing a sense of belonging. How cool is it to know that there is science to back up something we experience every day?
Highland Pet Hospital would normally see a spike in the number of new adoptions, new puppies, and new kitten appointments we see during the spring and early summer. However, since quarantine started, we have seen an even bigger spike than we would normally see this time of year. Further proof that we people are seeking loyalty, companionship, and an improvement in mental health during this time of isolation! How is your pet improving your mental well being during this uncertain time? Sometimes it helps just to think about how thankful you are for their presence in your life. Don’t just think about it, tell your pets how much they mean to you! The higher, squeakier, and sillier your voice the better!
A few people have asked how Highland Pet Hospital’s staff’s mental health is holding up. Here’s the truth. COVID has been hard. It’s changed our workflow, it’s made our efficiency take a huge hit, and we truly miss the presence of the loving and devoted owners who have to wait in their cars while we work with their pets. In addition, many of you might know that we changed all of our computer software in April. This change was already scheduled before COVID hit. It has been a couple of months to remember, but one thing hasn’t changed. We show up to work every day knowing that we get the opportunity to improve the health and well being of animals, and we love it. While we miss our more personal relationship with our pet owners, it doesn’t do any good to dwell on the bad. So, here’s a few things we love about our current COVID challenges.
- We are honored by how much our clients trust us. We know it takes a huge leap of faith to send your beloved pets into our care without accompanying them.
- We’ve gotten to grow as a team. Without clients in our building, we have to rely on each other so much more!
- Our communication skills are improving! We spend the majority of our staff training meetings learning how to improve our communication, and now we are putting those communication skills to the test. It’s an immersion into a real life communication exercise!
- We get to go outside!! As the spring weather arrives, we are all (vets, veterinary assistants, and front desk staff) getting to enjoy the beautiful sunshine and warm air during our frequent trips to your cars!
- We’ve learned how valuable our front desk staff members are. The front desk staff is fielding so many more phone calls and doing so much more work with scheduling…. We would be lost without them.
- We’ve all grown in our respect for our fearless (and tireless) leaders Dr. Niehm and Dr. Steffen. They are excellent veterinarians, and even better leaders. We would have sunk during week one without them.
- We are all developing EVEN BETTER “cute puppy” voices. We all had “talking to cute animal” voices before (you know the ones… high, silly, ridiculous baby talking voices) but alone with only your pets, these voices are getting out of hand. I for one am going to have to relearn talking like a normal person once the dog and cat moms and dads are back in the exam rooms with me during exams! Trust me, these puppy voices are becoming works of art!
We miss having our “dog and cat moms and dads” in the building with us, but know that the love you have for your animals, and the love of the human animal bond, is what sustains US and keeps US going. I don’t have to tell you that the love of an animal is something to sustain the mind through even the toughest of times.