Woman taking a selfie with horses, featured image around wellness and animals

Why not let in a little animal magic?

Animal communicator and therapist Ruth Bradshaw explains how four-legged friends can boost our wellness

Animals can bring a simple pleasure into your life. A budgerigar can sing, a dog is an excuse to get out of the house and go for a walk in nature, a cat can be someone to cuddle (not always, though!), a fish can be mesmerising to watch, and they can all be someone to talk to. Looking after an animal can give you a purpose.

You have to get up, feed, clean and look after them. Your life can be enriched by the experience of sharing your home with an animal, receiving company, purpose, unconditional love and often times of laughter and entertainment, too. Although it’s not always predictable!

Woman holding a rat on her hand pointing towards the camera

A client of mine had a small dog and he was her lifeline. He gave meaning to her life, helped her mental health by getting her up and out each day, and provided her with much-needed company and friendship, albeit in the four-legged variety. He gave her something to get up for in the morning and also a network of other like-minded people, as she often met with other dog walkers on the nearby green, so had an aspect of social enrichment she hadn’t factored in.

Some animals are not good at being socialised, such as reptiles, however, some of the support groups online are absolutely incredible and bring with them their own community of like-minded people to interact with.

As I said, walking a dog gets us up and out of the house. Movement is proven to be good for anyone with multiple sclerosis as it releases endorphins, our feel-good hormones, keeps us flexible and overall healthier. If you get outside, even just for a very slow walk, the fresh air is good for our health and the sunlight boosts our vitamin D production keeping our teeth, muscles and bones healthy.

Woman crouching down in the woods with her border collie

The purr of a cat is shown to be pitched at a healing and calming frequency, and stroking animals of all kinds has been shown to reduce high blood pressure, anxiety and stress.

There are benefits for the animals, too! Oh yes, it is no accident they come into our lives, often with the simplest and most humbling of lessons. I look at them as some of our greatest teachers – they share and teach unconditional love, and how to be in the present moment.

They like the company too, to be fed and given a warm home, and also the things we do with them keep their minds active and interested through play, which as adults we often sorely neglect. Animals encourage us to let stuff go. And most of all, they encourage us to love. We are all part of the animal kingdom, and none of us thrive without love in our lives. This has been proven by some pretty sad and heart-wrenching, controversial scientific experiments with monkeys in the 1930s by Harry Harlow.

Always do your research. We have the world at our fingertips with the internet, and there’s so much information available. For anyone looking for a dog, this website has a really helpful quiz www.iams.com/breedselector

  • Ask yourself some of the following questions, and think about how often you are at home and how much you can manage
  • What happens if the animal becomes ill?
  • Who will look after it when you go away, or if you fall ill?
  • What are the realistic costs of looking after this animal, and can you afford it?
  • Will you take out pet insurance? If not, how will you cover unexpected vet bills as and when they arise?
    As beautiful as huskies may be in Game of Thrones, they are working dogs and require a lot of mental stimulation, as well as physical exercise. A five-minute run a day is just not going to meet the needs of this type of dog. Are you choosing the animal you ‘want’ because of how it looks on TV? Be honest now, because if the answer is yes, you are likely to end up with more than you bargained for!

And finally, adopt rather than shop. Visit a rescue centre and explain to them what your lifestyle is like, then meet and greet different animals according to the centre’s suggestions. If you go with an open mind to taking on a rescue animal and not being attached to what it looks like, then you are likely to be pleasantly surprised by what you find.

If you aren’t sure of the length of commitment you can afford, bear in mind that dogs can live to around 15 and cats can live into their 20s, parrots can live for 40+ years and tortoises will live beyond 100 years.

So, if you really want one of these animals but don’t have enough years ahead of you, consider an older rescue animal and a legacy plan, too. I have rescued old cats and been amazed at how much character and personality that came out just a few days after moving into the home with me so don’t rule them out.

Ruth’s website is www.ruthydoolittle.com and she runs the Facebook group www.facebook.com/groups/animalchatandnaturalwellness