We’re not sure whether the comfort we find in furry friends is linked to the fact that they’re always available for a calming cuddle, or that they pull us down the street for a energising walk, or simply that they’re an affectionate companion, but it’s certainly true that coming home to the loving purr of a cat or the welcoming sight of a pair of puppy-dog eyes can help us feel soothed and safe.

Here are some of the benefits of being around animals:

Dogs encourage us to be more active. Walking a dog can help us meet the daily exercise requirements the government recommends. In one study of more than 5,200 Japanese adults, dog owners were 54% more likely to get the recommended physical activity than non-owners. That extra exercise may be why pet owners tend to have lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Cats and dogs can reduce stress and prevent loneliness. A pet can be a good companion especially for those who live alone. Having a friendly face and wagging tail to come home to is an antidote for loneliness. Walking a dog often leads to conversations with other dog owners and this helps owners to stay socially connected and less withdrawn.

Pets are a great motivator. Caring for a pet gives our day purpose and reward, and a sense of achievement. It also helps us feel valuable and needed.

With all that being said, although having a pet is very rewarding, it can also be very difficult… working longs hours can mean that our pets are left unattended and don’t get the companionship and exercise they need, and many apartment buildings or rented properties have strict rules about animals.

However, we shouldn’t let this discourage us from getting our fill of fluffy hugs… volunteering at a local shelter or perhaps even starting up a dog walking business would be a great way to get involved! Sheffield offers many opportunities to interact with animals of all shapes and sizes- Graves Park has a free animal farm and petting zoo with a range of residents from pigs, bunnies and chickens to shaggy highland cows- we’re bound to feel pawsitive after that!

 " I work long hours, which makes it difficult to have a pet of any kind. My solution is to 'borrow' a dog that would otherwise not get a walk because her owner's elderly and struggles to cope with a boistrous dog. It's benefical for me because I get to play with a dog for a couple of hours a week and it's benefical for the dog because she gets to stretch her legs every Saturday morning".