How Pets Can Help Your Mental Health

Richard talks about why his pets mean a lot to him, and how Dylan left a lasting legacy on his mental health journey.

1st December 2023, 5.00pm | Written by: Richard

Dylan joined our family when he was adopted from the Cats Protection as a kitten. He had been found on a local farm with his brothers and sisters, with their mother nowhere to be found.

I had been receiving support for my mental health for about four years at this point when it was then suggested that I get a pet to improve this further.

After settling in, Dylan became my almost constant companion. An indoor cat due to living next to a main road, he would often spend time next to me while I worked in the spare room I was using as an office space/gaming room. I soon came to call him my co-pilot, such was his love of relaxing next to me while I was playing games.

It would be during this time that I felt more able to volunteer within my local community, joining various projects as my confidence grew and my mental health improved further still. I have no doubt in my mind that much of this was to do with having Dylan as a pet.

A year later, Dylan would be joined by another adopted kitten, Megan. They got on really well, even though they were quite different in nature, Dylan always remained sensitive. A further five years after that we would take on another kitten, Rosie, from a family member.

Over this time period, my physical health would slowly improve, as my mental health grew stronger and I became even more self-confident. Although still prone to procrastination, it would be having pets, and Dylan in particular, that would be the main reason for all of these improvements. I became calmer and more focused on what I wanted to do.

When I felt able, I would move from purely community projects and start looking into mental health first aid, with the view to moving into that field in some way, shape, or form. I wanted to support others the way that I had been supported.

Taking a mental health first aid course earlier this year was the first major step, having done various other courses on growth mindset and mental health awareness beforehand. It would be through completing this first aid course for mental health that I would become aware of Time to Change Wales, and what they were trying to achieve on a national level.

I had only just reached out to Time to Change Wales when it became obvious that Dylan was ill. He was diagnosed with diabetes, somewhat rare at six years of age. After a three-month battle, the very difficult decision was made to have him put to sleep. Even though he is gone now, he had given me the strength to continue on my mental health journey and become a Champion for Time to Change Wales, in the hope of ending the stigma of mental health within Wales.

As for Megan and Rosie, they continue to provide much comfort to each other and to myself but I know I will never forget Dylan and all that he has done for me. 

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