How Having a Pet Can Help When You’re in Recovery

how pets can support your recovery

If you ever had a beloved pet, you can point to the benefits of having pets in life. Whether you owned cats, dogs, fish, birds, reptiles, hamsters, or any other animals, you undoubtedly have fond memories of the pleasure they gave you. Some people do not know that pet ownership has benefits that can help improve physical and mental health. Pet ownership is beneficial to anyone and particularly helpful for those in recovery from addiction to alcohol or drugs. Having a pet may add to the joyous moments in life, making recovery more tolerable and quicker.

Physical and Mental Benefits of Having a Pet

According to a CNN report, some of the health benefits of pet ownership include:

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Better sleep patterns
  • Fewer heart attacks
  • Increased physical activity
  • Fewer doctor visits
  • Lower rates of depression
  • Decreased loneliness
  • Increased self-esteem

Having a dog can help increase the time a person participates in cardiovascular exercise. Taking a dog for a walk or run, playing games like “fetch,” and other activities involving both pet and owner means getting some exercise. Both people and their dogs benefit from this activity. Other pets can increase cardiovascular activity and movement while tending for their care. Animals, like hamsters, guinea pigs, lizards, and fish, require regular cleaning of their living spaces.

Emotional Support Animals Offer Companionship and Comfort

Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) have become popular over the last several years. ESAs are pets that provide emotional support and comfort to their owners. Most owners of ESAs have a mental or psychiatric disability and benefit therapeutically from an ESA. An ESA is not the same as a “guide” or “service” dog used by people with vision impairment or physical disorders like epilepsy or Muscular Dystrophy. An ESA can be a dog, cat, or other pet.

Legal Requirements of ESAs in Public Places

Some legal requirements allow a person to travel with an ESA or live in housing that otherwise does not allow pets. A licensed mental health professional must prescribe an ESA, such as a psychologist, psychiatrist, or therapist. Some airlines will only allow a limited type of ESA on their planes; check first before booking a flight. Unlike service and guide dogs, many places, like restaurants and shops, are not legally bound to allow ESAs.

A Pet Fosters Responsibility, Self-Care, and Pride

Often a person in recovery after struggling with addiction for a long time finds they have lost focus on being responsible for themselves and their lives. They are new to making healthy decisions for themselves and having a routine of self-care. Taking care of a pet can help bolster their drive for self-care. Pets require a regular feeding routine and cleaning rituals like bathing a dog, scooping out a litter box, and cleaning a birdcage or aquarium.

Many treatment professionals remind their clients that if they see the value of regular pet care, they can apply similar routines for themselves. Often people find that when they know the importance of caring for another, even a furry, feathered, or scaled friend, they engage in self-care activities. The act of caring for a pet allows many people to feel pride in their accomplishments, a feeling that may be absent from the lives of someone who lost time to their addiction.

Affection and Companionship of Pets

Another benefit to pet ownership is the shared affection many people experience with their animals. Sitting with a cat or other pet in their lap while they pet or brush them can be a peaceful, bonding routine. Many people allow pets to sleep with them, making getting to sleep easier and making them feel less lonely. Pets, like dogs, can also help a person feel secure and protected when living alone. Feeling safe at night is beneficial for getting a good night’s rest.

Pets Can Help Build Social Lives for Their Owners

Pet ownership can help a person become more sociable. Many in-person and online groups are devoted to owners of specific animals. Having pet ownership in common with others can help build new friendships. People can get together for new activities within the group. Dog parks can be great places to meet new people.

Opening up a new social life is vital for those isolated due to addiction. Animal shelters are full of pets who need “forever homes.” If you cannot have a pet in your home, you can also volunteer at shelters to spend time with animals and meet new people. Start by checking shelters for pets needing a new human parent to change their lives while improving yours.

When a person is in recovery, they look for multiple ways to help themselves stay on the path of sobriety. Medical and therapy appointments are essential aspects of treatment. Most people might not consider lifestyle changes that can be beneficial. Owning a pet can improve mental and physical health, foster responsibility and pride in the owner, and open up new social activities. Some people can benefit from having an emotional support animal. The Detox Center of Colorado has a professional treatment team ready to help you, or someone you love, complete the detox process and plan the next steps of recovery. We provide short-term stays with 24/7 monitoring and live-in care within a home-like facility that addresses your individual needs. Our beautiful Denver area location is the perfect place to hit the reset button on your life. Call us today to discuss how we can help you or a loved one become whole again! (303) 952-5035

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