The companionship of pets and spirituality

Mar 27, 2024 | Blog | 0 comments

What is companionship?

Companionship is a feeling of fellowship or friendship; a feeling of closeness with another being and the enjoyment of spending time with them. There are some people with whom you have a strong ‘soul’ connection ~ your soulmate ~ to whom you feel linked in a significant way. 

While I hope you have companionship with other people, have you considered the companionship you might have with animals? Companionship with an animal (whether a dog, cat, rabbit, guinea pig, horse, fish, bird, or any other animal), can have a range of physical, social and mental health benefits for people.

 

A bit of history

Through cave paintings and other art forms we can see that animals played significant roles in the lives of our ancestors. In many cultures, pets are seen as spiritual guardians and guides as well as companions. In ancient Egyptian culture, the god Anubis (depicted with a canine head) was a protector of graves and a guide to the afterlife, and cats were revered and associated with the goddess Bastet, symbolising protection, fertility, and grace. While in Native American traditions, animals were revered as spirit guides or totems, each embodying specific spiritual qualities and teachings. 

In Hinduism, cows are sacred and represent the divine and nurturing aspect of life. While the concept of non-violence towards all living beings underlines the spiritual significance of animals in Buddhism. Such practices show the deep reverence and spiritual connection that some cultures have with animals, viewing them as integral to understanding the divine and the sacred.

Today, we give pets – defined as animals we live with and that have no obvious function – a special status. But where does this attraction and interest come from? Well, it is all related to our emotional affiliation toward other life forms,

 

The ‘value and joy’ of pet companionship

There are huge physical benefits of pet companionship. Dog ownership, in particular, is associated with physical health benefits including greater physical activity and improved cardiovascular health; as owners get outdoors and exercise both their dogs and themselves.

Animals can also be hugely beneficial to your mental health by providing companionship together with motivation, stress relief and comfort. Then there are the social benefits, as animals can buffer the feelings of loneliness and isolation ~ admit it, how often do you talk to and confide in your pet?

Animals, as companions, benefit young and old alike. They can improve quality of life, and alleviate depression and anxiety. In the young, animals can help with emotional and social skills, increase their self-esteem, and improve learning outcomes, while in the elderly they can slow the symptoms of dementia as well as increase physical fitness and health parameters such as blood pressure. Dogs especially can serve as a source of comfort and support. Therapy dogs can help reduce patients’ stress and anxiety and it has also been found that dogs can help children with ADHD focus their attention. 

BUT… it is important to recognise the responsibility of having an animal/pet; it’s huge. Ownership of a pet comes with financial, emotional, and physical challenges. So the positive impact of such companionship must be weighed against this.

 

Do our pets benefit too?

Well this is an interesting question, isn’t it? It does appear that the relationships we have with animals may also benefit the animals’ health. Scientists have found that stroking an animal reduces its heart rate, that dogs with owners who consider them as social partners are less stressed, and that both humans and animals benefit from the interaction.

 

Unconditional and spiritual companionship

If you have ever owned a pet you will know that nothing compares to the joy of arriving home to a loyal companion, especially if you have had a bad day. Their unconditional love is very special. Anyone who thinks ‘friends are hard to find’ has probably never had a loyal and nonjudgemental pet! But it isn’t totally unconditional… our pets, who become an integral part of our lives, are dependent on our love and care… and the food we give them!! 

Our nurturing of their love is very meaningful. We build a spiritual bond with our animal companions that is both pure and innocent; a buffer to everyday stress, loneliness, and anxiety. Our pets welcome us into their hearts and lives with an innocence and respect that many of us, if we’re totally honest, rarely receive from any human! We build a strong relationship with our pets and, in turn, we receive their devotion and loyalty. They become our Number 1 fan and accept us for who we are – that’s special! Consider this: your pet sees you at your best and your worst and so probably knows you better than anyone else in the world!

Conclusion

So our pets play multifaceted roles in our lives. Across different cultures and spiritual beliefs, pets are revered as companions and as sacred beings that offer protection, guidance, and unconditional love. If you really examine the special bond you have with your pet, the joy and wonder you share with them, I am sure you will see that they are truly entwined with our journey towards understanding and experiencing the divine. When you love an animal, laugh at their antics, and share the joy and wonder of their presence, you are enjoying a moment of spiritual communion and building a sacred bond.

If you are struggling and lacking companionship, please get in touch and I can help you find your way through this difficult time, through mentoring and well-being coaching and providing any support you might need.