We all love our pets, whether they are tiny, huge, scaly, feathered or furry, and it's our duty to provide them with the best care we can to keep them happy and healthy. However, it's not all one way and it has actually been proven that most pet owners are happier in their own lives because they share it with a pet.
To celebrate the second year of the National Office of Animal Health's (NOAH) 'I Heart My Pet' campaign, researchers conducted a study of more than 2,000 pet owners to see just how our animals affect us in our day-to-day lives. They found that approximately 90 per cent of those interviewed claim to be happier as a result of having a pet and 48 per cent of people believed that spending time with their pets reduced their stress levels.
I've had rabbits since I was eight years (I'm nearly 24 now!) and I have to say that they have certainly enriched my life. I got my rabbit Simba just over two years ago and he's such a character. I've bought him in overnight every day since the winter because of the horrible weather we've had and there's nothing better than going into the kitchen to have my breakfast and seeing him waiting for me to open his hutch door. Even though he can't talk back, those morning chats while we're eating breakfast (me with my shreddies and him with a leaf of cabbage) help get the day off to a great start.
NOAH also found that more than one in five people surveyed said they are at their happiest when they spend time with their pet. My grandad passed away a few years ago and my nan would have been very lonely on her own. Her lhasa apso Daisy helps to distract her and keep her busy. She's a bundle of fluff and when we go and visit, she always carries my bag inside!
I can say the same about one of my friends who is elderly. He lost his wife a couple of years ago and he has a pet lurcher called Penny. I believe that having Penny during this difficult time has helped to keep him going.
It was enchanting to read that some of the findings of this survey paints a picture of a nation of Doctor Dolittles. This is because they found that almost two thirds of owners believe they can understand the noises their pet makes and 49 per cent say they are able to read their pet's facial expressions. In addition, 48 per cent think they know when their pet is happy or sad.
I love this idea and think all pet owners roughly know how their pet is feeling at a certain time. Sometimes, when I'm grooming Simba's mane (he's a lionhead) he puts on a long-suffering face as if to say 'Go on then, if you have to.' When I've taken Penny out for a walk, she'll bark at my friend and he knows whether she wants to go out into the garden or if she wants some food.
I think when we spend so much time with our pets, we do develop a kind of a relationship with them. It works the other way, too. If I'm sad, Simba will come up and just lay next to me, just to let me know that he's there and he'll let me stroke him for as long as I need to.
This shows just how much we value our pets and reinforces that they are full-fledged members of the family. I think they are just as important as any other member, more so because they depend on us to look after them and take them to the vet when they are ill. Last year, Simba broke his leg and me and my family spent £500 so that the vet could help make him better. While this is a lot of money, I believe he was worth it because as an pet owner I have a duty to look after him.
The National Office of Animal Health (NOAH) has a new website (www.pethealthinfo.org.uk), which offers expert healthcare advice for pet owners, as well as activities to help keep pets happy and healthy all year round. Follow the campaign @Iheartmypetuk on Twitter or find IHeartMyPetUK on Facebook.