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This International Day of Happiness let your pet brighten up your day.

While International Day of Happiness is celebrated annually on the 20th of March to promote happiness and well-being for all, this year many of us may not be feeling the ‘happy feels.’ However, what’s the first thing that people ask their followers for on social media when they’re feeling down? Pictures of cute pets – especially, but not limited to, puppies and kittens.

“No one makes us happier than our pets. it's long been proven that our pets can help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression,” explains Marycke Ackhurst, pet behaviour expert from Hill’s Pet Nutrition.

She adds that when going through a difficult time, pet parents will testify to the fact that their pet is the one to pick-up on their emotions and provide unconditional love and comfort, when humans sometimes can’t. In fact, research has revealed that people with pets are happier, with an increase in self-esteem.

“Pets have an amazing ability to lift our spirits just by being there and are a great source of companionship.”

One of the things that brings many people joy is spending time with puppies and kittens. Firstly, their cute and cuddly appearance triggers a positive emotional response in many people. When we see a cute and adorable pet, it can activate the reward centre in our brain, leading to feelings of pleasure and happiness.

Overall, there is a growing body of evidence supporting the idea that animals bring us joy and can have positive effects on our physical, emotional, and social well-being.

Ackhurst adds that relying on our pets for stress relief can cause some anxiety for them too, however there are many ways for pets and their humans to experience happiness together and celebrate International

Day of Happiness. Here are a few ideas:

Get physical – Physical exercise releases endorphins – our happy hormone – and Vitamin D, which we get from the sun, has been linked to helping combat depression. On the flip side, the exercise is good for your dog too and they will love the quality time with you. For cats almost anything can be turned into a game, from chasing after a catnip-filled toy mouse, to simply tying string to an empty toilet roll and pulling it along the floor for them to catch.

Spend quality time together – Set aside some time to play, cuddle, and bond with your pet. This can be as simple as playing fetch with your dog or snuggling up with your cat. Oxytocin, sometimes referred to as the ‘cuddle chemical’, helps increase feelings of trust, relaxation, and empathy, while reducing stress and anxiety. Spending time with your pet and cuddling them will help your brain to start producing Oxytocin.

Treat your pet – Show your pet some extra love by giving them a special treat, such as a new toy or a delicious treat. You can make your pet some yummy homemade snacks using Hill’s pet food. Click here for some great recipe ideas.

Volunteer at your local pet shelter – You don’t have to have a pet to love pets. Why not celebrate International Day of Happiness by visiting a nearby shelter? Spend time with the dogs and cats looking for their forever home as well as the volunteers who support them. It will make you, and them, feel good. Or, if you are looking for a new puppy, kitten, or even older pet to join your family then download the free Pet Matchmaker App. “There are thousands of cats and dogs in shelters around South Africa waiting for a second chance at love,” says Ackhurst. The Pet Matchmaker App is an easy and fun way for pet parents to find a pet that suits their personality, and lifestyle.

The Pet Matchmaker App is free to download on IOS and Android.


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