Pets improve our mental wellness

Cats and dogs have been part of people’s lives for many centuries, but lately they’ve been playing a very different role in our lives. They have become part of the family in most homes, and they have become companions, and even confidants, for some people.

In this article, we speak to Dr Nicoleen Coetzee, research psychologist and senior lecturer at the Department of Psychology of the University of Pretoria, to find out how the roles of pets in our lives have changed.

Close relationship

Not only have we become closer to our animals, but we also treat them differently than we used to a few decades ago, when dogs were left outside, and cats roamed the city streets. Now, pets share their pet parents’ beds and are ‘trusted’ with all sorts of information, and we rely on them to be there for us emotionally.

“It is a well-known fact that pets improve the mental health of people,” says Dr Coetzee. But being so close to our pets comes with a new challenge. “Since people are so close to their pets now, losing a pet can be a very stressful event. People who lose a pet because of death can go through the same stages of grief as when losing a human companion.” This, in itself, explains the emotional bond people have with their pets nowadays.

“Research has shown that the human-animal bond is evolving. Our ancestors domesticated animals to assist them when hunting for food and, later on, to provide protection to families. Recent studies, however, showed that, in recent years, a significant number of people cite companionship as a reason for having pets,” adds Dr Coetzee.

To read the rest of this article and find out what role pets play in our lives, get the November 2021 issue of Animaltalk at retail stores, or order a printed or digital copy now at



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