Mental Health and Pets...And Sad News of Nibbles the Rabbit

A few years ago I wrote an article about the mental health benefits of pets. Having a pet can help if you have a mental health condition, and I think the sense of connection, emotional support and sense of purpose are valuable benefits to us all.

I can still remember the excitement when Nibbles the rabbit joined the Regan household and she soon became a part of the family. The girls would hug, feed and groom her, and I know all of us enjoyed our little interactions in the garden (and all those private little conversations you have with your pets when no one else can hear you!!). 

During lockdown one in particular, I used to go out into the back garden each morning and do a bootcamp routine that had been shared online (as we weren't allowed in groups back then). As well as killing the grass with what seemed like a trillion burpees, I used to love interacting with Nibbles (who probably wondered what on earth I was doing but she kept quiet as long as the grass kept coming her way!). As soon as I went into the garden, up she would come running to remind me of my grass picking and feeding responsibilities, and every time I rested there she was giving me that little 'I'm just a poor starving bunny, even though I've eaten a ton of grass already' look that I couldn't ignore.

Of course, she did have her moments, like the time she escaped and it took us over an hour to get her out from behind the neighbour's shed. And I think she scratched my daughter a few times and even peed on the living room floor (while getting hugs from the kids).  

But despite those occasional little bunny strops, she was very much a part of our family and it was a very sad day indeed when she didn't come home from the vet last week. Poor little Nibbles.   

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Mental Health and Pets

As I covered in this article, Mental Health & Pets - How Pets Can Benefit Your Mental Health, research has shown the benefit of having a pet for people with a mental health condition.

Brooks et al (2018), concluded that "pets provide benefits to those with mental health conditions through the intensity of connectivity with their owners and the contribution they make to emotional support in times of crises together with their ability to help manage symptoms when they arise."

The psychological benefits from pets included how they can provide a consistent and close source of calming support and companionship, provide distraction from upsetting symptoms, bring benefits from providing purpose and routine, and the perception that pets accept their owners without judgement. All of these things we can benefit from, whether we struggle with a mental health condition or not.

I think Nibbles brought our family many benefits such as companionship, routine, distraction and a sense of purpose (as well as often a little bit of humour at her antics). It was a little bit sad when I took down her hutch and run (in the pouring rain and gale force winds), yet having it there was a bit of a painful reminder to the girls (and my wife, who was heartbroken and very emotional), and I was still finding myself checking outside the window first thing in the morning to check the hutch was still standing and that Nibbles was ok and hadn't escaped in the night. 

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Whilst we wait for her ashes to come home and decide how best to remember her, the girls have been spending a lot of time looking back through photos of Nibbles over the years, which is clearly their way of processing things. We've been talking a lot about the things she used to get up to, like the time she started playing football with her nose and how excited she would get when you fed her some dandelion leaves.    

I don't know if we'll be getting another pet anytime soon, but thank you Nibbles for all the love, happiness, drama and fun! 

To your happiness,

Dan Regan

Hypnotherapy in Ely & Newmarket

 

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Reference: Brooks, H.L., Rushton, K., Lovell, K., Bee, P., Walker, L., Grant, L. and Rogers, A., 2018. The power of support from companion animals for people living with mental health problems: a systematic review and narrative synthesis of the evidence. BMC psychiatry18(1), pp.1-12.