Pets are amazing for mental health. No matter how you’re feeling, they are there for you and can be a great source of comfort. Gardener’s World presenter Monty Don has been very outspoken about how his dogs helped him through depression and the Mental Health Foundation confirm that the companionship of a pet is a great way to reduce stress and anxiety.
But that’s not all. Having a pet can also help beat loneliness – after all, you’ve always got a friend with you – and they can trigger social interactions with neighbours and other dog walkers. Children can find it calming to spend time with animals, so dogs and horses are often called upon to help youngsters with autism and ADHD.
Pets as Therapy brings trained PAT cats and dogs into residential homes, school and hospices to bring joy and comfort to individuals. Owning a pet later in life can also help bring routine to daily life and is thought to minimise anxious outbursts in Alzheimer sufferers.
Our own cats, Cookie and Muffin, are actually rather intuitive. They can tell if I am feeling sad and will come to rub against me, and this cheers me up no end. If I’m unwell, they will provide support by staying beside me, but will maintain their distance to not overwhelm or hurt me. If I’m over-worked or stressed, they’ll inevitably come to sit on my lap and ‘cat trap’ me so that I can’t move and have to rest.
An article on the psychology website BetterHelp shares self-help advice on managing anxiety. In terms of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, having a regular daily routine can help to ease symptoms, so walking the dog or feeding your pets becomes part of that. Additionally, stroking a pet can be a mindful activity, which helps to soothe stress and anxiety. Focusing on the things you can see, hear and touch for a period of time, such as while stroking your cat’s soft fur and hearing it purr, serves to provide mindfulness at home.
Pets really are super stars and a source of pure joy. I personally wouldn’t want to be without them. Let’s face it, they’re part of our family and are just as important as any relative or friend in providing support and happiness. Do you have a pet that’s become part of your family?
As Cookie and Muffin are such an important part of my life, I’m constantly looking for ways to immortalise them in art form and in writing. You will no doubt have spotted many blog posts dedicated to them over the past ten years and you can read about how we came to adopt them from Lancaster Animal Care when they were just 2 and 3 years old. Since then they’ve become rather famous and have featured in many magazines!
I’ve also invested in some artworks to capture my pets’ personalities and celebrate them as important members of my family. It started with using large photographs of their Animal Care ‘profile pics’ as wall art in our bedroom and my collection has since grown. If you too want to immortalise your pet in art form, here are some suggestions:
It was a couple of Christmases ago that I commissioned a local artist to make mini ceramic versions of my cats. Hannah Berridge looked at photos of Cookie and Muffin before painting their markings onto her blank clay cats. I use these as baubles to hang on the Christmas tree and throughout the rest of the year, they hang on each cat’s hook in the ‘cat cupboard’, along with their teaser toys.
Many people collect artworks and ornaments that look like their pet – which is easy to do if you have a black cat or Labrador. But if your pet has unusual markings or you want to capture their unique personalities, there’s no better way to do this than by commissioning an animal portrait. For less than £10 you can have an illustrator hand-draw your pet for you and they’ll send you the file to download and print at home.
A custom animal illustration can immortalise your pet as a cartoon, or as a detailed digital artwork. As long as you’ve got a photo of your rabbit, parrot or even your horse to start with, an illustrator can work from this. And, once you’ve got the PNG digital file, you can print it and frame it out any size you like. Or you could even share it on your social media accounts, especially if its your pet’s birthday!
WOODEN LASER CUTS
I love the natural texture of wood and, when combined with pyrography or laser cutting techniques, I can hardly resist it. Last year I bought a couple of wooden cat brooches from local designer Hello Pushkin at a market. While these aren’t specifically images of Cookie and Muffin, I was able to spot their personalities within the drawings she had done. I selected a fluffy, belly-up pose that looked just like Cookie and the curled, sleeping cat summed up Muffin perfectly. So now I can wear my cats on my jacket!
PAINT YOUR OWN
I’ve just started a new project to paint canvases of my own cats in acrylic paint. But, seeing as I have no artistic ability and haven’t drawn anything since my school days, I decided to use a paint-by-numbers kit instead. This makes it so much easier to paint a portrait of your pet yourself, as all the colours are numbered and you simply fill in the spaces. I can’t wait to get Cookie and Muffin painted and up on my wall.
What do you think? Will you be celebrating your own furry family member with a new artwork? Let me know how you’ve captured the personality of your pets in the comments below 🙂
PIN IT FOR LATER
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