In a year where many Kiwis have reported feelings of stress and anxiety, research has revealed that pet owners may have found it easier to navigate life’s challenges and improve their mental wellbeing thanks to the company of their four-legged friends.
According to the Southern Cross Healthy Futures Report 2020, 95 per cent of pet owners believe pets are good for people’s health and wellbeing, and 93 per cent think pets help to relieve stress. This bodes well for New Zealand as a nation of pet lovers, with the report also finding over 54 per cent of Kiwi homes having at least one cat or dog.
Dr Stephen Child, from Southern Cross’ Health Insurance business, said owning a pet is a wonderful way of providing people with purpose, particularly important during the pandemic.
“Becoming a pet owner creates a mutual relationship where you provide care to an animal that needs it, and in return you receive companionship. Pets love you unconditionally, don’t discriminate and can even play a therapeutic role in improving someone’s health and wellbeing,” said Dr Child.
Southern Cross Pet Insurance (SCPI) customer Karalee Squire is the owner of a Bengal cat called Kawaii and said taking care of her helped to keep loneliness at bay while living alone during the lockdowns.
“Looking after Kawaii and my other pets kept me busy and entertained during the lockdown. Having something that looks up to you and just wants to cuddle and play has helped my wellbeing immensely this year,” she said.
Gemma-Leigh Bardsley, another SCPI customer, adopted her two cats as kittens after being diagnosed with some medical conditions.
“Shortly after I found out I had epilepsy, I also developed anxiety and ended up not wanting to leave my house. Indie and Juno provided a distraction from my thoughts and looking after them was a real comfort to me when I was in a darker place. Having them around the house and spending time with them has significantly helped with my recovery,” said Bardsley.
SCPI General Manager Anthony McPhail said while our furry family members help support our wellbeing and happiness, it’s important that the care goes both ways.
“There is no public health system for pets in New Zealand and veterinary care can be costly. While we provide pet insurance to 44,000 Kiwi pets, that leaves many more who don’t have cover if they get sick or are unexpectedly injured.
“When our pets are seen as a member of the family, and do so much to improve our health and wellbeing, it’s a comfort to know the medical bills are covered if they are in need of medical treatment to get well,” said McPhail.