It's no secret that a cuddle with an adorable animal can lift your mood tenfold. But can a pet really help your mental health? I believe they absolutely do, and that guinea pigs can make the perfect companion to a person struggling with their mental wellbeing. My guinea pigs have been a lifeline to me in tough times, and having them to take care of and cuddle and watch is truly a blessing. This post is going to tell you why, and is packed with adorable piggie pictures so is definitely worth a scroll!
Science Says Yes // It's widely documented that pets are good for our mental health. A quick Google search for 'pets and mental health' brings up a cornucopia of articles like this one, explaining the benefits of pets for people with different kinds of mental health needs such as depression, alzheimer's, autism, or loneliness. There's also a huge volume of research papers such as this one on the benefits of pets in the management of long-term mental health conditions. The research is there, and pets are good for our mental wellbeing.
The Routine // Something I find so helpful about having pets is the routine. No matter how bad I may feel, my guinea pigs need feeding, watering, grooming, cuddling, and cleaning out. Weekly, I have to go out to the laundrette to wash their fleece cage liners and clean their cage thoroughly. Daily, their unholy amount of poops get cleaned up, their water is refreshed, and a bowl of chopped fresh vegetables and pellets is provided for their furry Royal Highnesses. Washing and buying supplies has at times been the only thing getting me out of the house, and having a nightly routine to stick to has been incredibly helpful to me. The organisation and routine involved in pet care can be so helpful to keeping grounded and doing at least something each day when it feels like moving is impossible.
Unconditional Love // This is probably a very obvious point. Our pets love us unconditionally. Oberst and Orwell don't care if I've got no makeup on. They don't care if I'm grouchy or upset or haven't showered yet. They're happy to see me regardless. There have been times when I have been sobbing and hating myself and feeling so alone, and I've picked up a piggie only for him to snuggle into my face and lick my tears. That might sound gross to some, but the feeling that love and gentleness from a companion can be a lifesaving. Even on a good day, hearing their happy chirps when I come home or snuggle them makes my heart feel so full.
Distraction // You're stuck in your own head and the world feels like it's crumbling. You hear a rustle or a crashing sound. You look up to see your two goofy pigs chasing each other, or rearranging their own cage, or flipping their dinner bowl, or kicking each other out of the best relaxing spot. I could watch my boys all day, and so often they start playing or being hilarious and adorable at just the right moment. Plus, I guarantee you've never heard a sound as lovely as a piggie crunching on their favourite snack. They're a perfect distraction with a secret superpower. Everything they do is just so. freaking. cute. Having a drink? Precious. Eating hay? Adorable. Resting? So sweet I could cry. You get my point. Watching them is so soothing to the soul.
What makes guinea pigs so perfect? // I think guinea pigs could be an ideal pet for someone feeling mentally fragile. Whilst no pet is 'low-maintenance', guinea pigs aren't complex or super high-energy to take care of. They can make a lot of noise if you're late with dinner and when they're excited to see you, but they're so happy to sit chatting quietly in your lap being tickled. They're happy to cuddle up and sit still and just be petted and coddled. They would only ever bite when in serious distress. Their low-energy nature and love of snuggles make them the perfect companion for someone in need of a gentle friend.
Things to remember // I will always always advocate for 'adopt don't shop'. With so many homeless pets in shelters and rescues, and even being given away online, there is no need to put money into the pet trade by choosing a pet shop or a breeder. Rescuing a piggie in desperate need of a forever home is so rewarding! It's also so important to throughly research before you commit to a pet. Can you definitely meet their needs? Do you have a plan or support in place for financial difficult or unexpected vet bills? What if you need to move house? A pet is a big and serious commitment, and deserve to be given the best lives possible and to have all their needs met. Your pet makes you happy, and trusts you to keep them happy and healthy. They love you, and need you to love them. Please never buy a pet without serious consideration.
My guinea pigs are truly a gift. They make me so happy every day, and keep me getting up and doing something when getting out of bed feels impossible. They're the reason I started spending time in the fresh air of the garden when I was unable to leave the house, after my mum suggested it and got them a playpen. They're there to cuddle on lazy mornings and I love coming home from work to see them. They make me laugh constantly with their silly mismatched personalities. Caring for a pet and the companionship and love they share in return is a blessing and something I would recommend to anyone. Do your companion animals help your mental health? I'd love to hear all about them (and see some cute pictures!).