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If you enjoy spending time with animals, then working with them can be both extremely rewarding and beneficial to your physical and mental health. For many people, working with animals is described as a ‘dream job’ and that job can take many forms.
The most common job working with animals is to work as a veterinarian or a veterinarian nurse, but other popular jobs for those wishing to work with animals include animal trainer, zookeeper, zoologist, marine biologist, dog walker, ecologist, or conservation officer.
Whether you work with domesticated pets or exotic wildlife, animals have a unique way of enriching our lives and bringing us joy. In this blog, we will explore the various advantages of working with animals and why it can be more than just a job. Here’s everything you need to know:
Emotional Benefits of Working with Animals
There are numerous emotional benefits of working with animals, no matter what the capacity. Spending time around animals has long been known to alleviate mental health complaints such as depression, anxiety, trauma, addiction and Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Even owning an animal can have emotional benefits. 74% of pet owners reported mental health improvements from pet ownership; 75% of pet owners reported a friend’s or family member’s mental health improved after spending time with their pets. Some of the most significant emotional benefits of working with animals include:
- Reduced levels of stress and anxiety. Levels of the stress hormone cortisol are dramatically reduced when individuals spend time interacting with animals. As well as a demonstrable reduction of this stress hormone, increased levels of the hormone oxytocin, which triggers happy feelings of love and protection have also been recorded in individuals that spend extended time around animals. In short, this means that working with animals can biologically alter your chemical balance to ensure that you are both happier and less stressed.
- Improved self-compassion. When you spend time around animals, you will develop a stronger sense of self-forgiveness and this, in turn, can help you to develop compassion not only for the animals that you are caring for but for yourself too. Working with animals allows you to assess any potential challenges you might face, and then break them down into smaller and more achievable and realistic goals until the challenge is completed. This is a natural part of working with animals, more so than any other career path, because completing large challenges at speed might well cause unnecessary distress to the animals you are caring for or working with.
- Higher levels of confidence. Those who work with animals often demonstrate higher levels of confidence, and animals can help individuals to grow their self-confidence. Animals are great listeners as they are unable to talk back in the conventional sense, they offer unconditional love to those who care for them, and they do not criticise. If you have historically suffered from a lack of confidence, then being exposed to these fine qualities in the animals which you care for is sure to give you a confidence boost.
Physical Benefits of Working with Animals
There are many physical benefits of working with animals, and the larger or more active the animals you are caring for, the more likely it is that you will see the physical benefits of your efforts. This is because walking, moving, and even carrying a larger animal is likely to cause you to exert much more energy than moving or performing the same tasks with a rabbit or a hamster. Some of the physical benefits of working with animals include:
- Reduced blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Spending time with animals has been shown to lower blood pressure and improve overall cardiovascular health. There are two main reasons for this: firstly, working with animals is a physically demanding job role, and your blood pressure and cholesterol levels tend to drop the more physically active you are. Secondly, spending time with animals can have a calming effect, lowering stress levels and increasing happiness: these factors can also lead to a reduction in blood pressure. Petting a dog for just 15 minutes can lower blood pressure by 10%, research has revealed. No wonder those who spend much longer than that around animals each day have such good heart health!
- Improved fitness levels. Working with animals is a physical role. Animals need regular exercise, particularly if you are working in a role (such as a pet sitter or dog walker) where this is your primary focus. The more you walk, the fitter you will become. Walking also boasts additional benefits: walking briskly can help you build stamina, burn excess calories and make your heart healthier. According to the NHS, walking for just 30 minutes every day can increase cardiovascular fitness, so if you are spending much of your day walking as you spend time with animals, you can expect your fitness levels to increase considerably.
- Good physical health promotes good mental health. Whilst the mental health benefits of working with animals have already been outlined, it is worth noting that good physical health also promotes good mental health. This means that, aside from those outlined above, there are mental health benefits to working with animals. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins, and these chemicals can trigger a positive feeling in the body whilst also reducing your perception of pain.
Professional Benefits of Working with Animals
The physical and mental health benefits of spending time with animals can be achieved by anyone who either chooses to own a pet or regularly spends time around animals of all kinds. But there are also specific benefits of working with animals in a professional capacity. Some of the professional benefits of working with animals include:
- An abundance of opportunity. There is no better time to consider a career working with animals. Pet ownership is currently booming in the UK. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, 3.2 million households acquired a pet. This means that there are over 12 million dogs now in homes across the UK. With this huge number of new pets, there are now long waiting lists for appointments with veterinarians, animal trainers, and animal behaviourists in the UK, making this the ideal time to enter the animal care industry.
- Increased job satisfaction. Those who work with animals feel that the work that they do has meaning. They know what they are doing, and can instantly see how what they do impacts the animals they work with: this kind of instant gratification can be incredibly rewarding. This is supported by research from CareerExplorer, which shows that animal trainers rate their career satisfaction 4.2 out of 5 stars which puts them in the top 3% of all careers. Other animal-based job roles rank similarly highly.
- Develop valuable skills. Many of the skills you will develop when you work with animals are both valuable and transferrable to other career paths. Those working with animals typically have exceptional teamwork, problem-solving and communication skills. These are all well-regarded skills that are valued by employers from many sectors.
Social Benefits of Working with Animals
Whilst there are some relatively solitary careers that involve working with animals, such as dog walking or pet sitting, the vast majority of careers with animals provide opportunities for meeting and building relationships with individuals who share the same interests as you.
- Break down social barriers. Animals, like children, tend to hold the attention of everyone in a room. They provide a focal point for conversation, making it easier to interact with new people. Being able to talk about the animals you are caring for can help to break down social barriers and provide a way for individuals to connect with others who may have different backgrounds or experiences.
- Meet new people. Humans are naturally social animals, and social interactions with colleagues or clients that are friendly and supportive can make the workplace more enjoyable for the vast majority of employees. Having daily access to this level of support will build bonds and can create a sense of community. The greater this sense of belonging, the higher your levels of job satisfaction will be.
- A sense of pride. Many people who work with animals choose to do so on a voluntary basis. Whether you are volunteering at an animal shelter or donating your free time at a veterinary clinic, you can feel proud that what you are doing has value and is making a difference to the animals that you care for.
Environmental Benefits of Working with Animals
You may not consider the environmental benefits of working with animals, but if you are working with wild animals, helping to preserve their habitat or maintain their ecosystem, then you are actively playing a role in protecting the environment. Those who care about animals tend to naturally care about the environment too, because they are aware that on a wider level, animals and their environments are connected, and you must preserve one in order to save the other. Some of the environmental benefits of working with animals are:
- To focus on conservation and environmental preservation. Times have changed, and attitudes to animal welfare have changed too. Whilst it was once accepted that animals were kept in zoos for human entertainment, they now play a vital role in helping the general public to understand their needs and focus on conservation and environmental preservation as a result. As a result of their annual gala, London Zoo raised more than £436,000 for conservation charities. This is a clear example of the good that choosing to work with animals, even wild animals in urban environments, can do.
- Protect endangered species. According to the World Animal Foundation, there are currently 40,084 animal species across the globe considered threatened by extinction. Problems such as urbanisation and deforestation means that many of these animals simply would not be able to survive if left to their own devices. Animal specialists, conservationists and others who specialise in working with animals are needed to save these species, and ensure that their habitats are preserved, and that they are around for future generations to protect them and to enjoy. Caring for and working with animals can help to promote a deeper understanding and appreciation for the natural world. Going on to share this knowledge ensures that the impact of your caring is much broader, and can incite real, positive change.
- Animal health is key to preserving sustainability. In a farming environment, protecting the health of the animals you work with is vital to ensuring that your farm remains sustainable. One example of this lies in productivity. Farms must be productive to be sustainable. And ensuring that you only keep healthy animals, free from disease, with the highest levels of welfare, will have the direct result of positively affecting the productivity of any farm.
Overall, the benefits of working with animals are significant and wide-ranging. There are benefits for yourself, and also benefits for the animals involved and for wider society too. From the emotional and physical benefits to the professional, social, and environmental benefits, working with animals can provide a unique and rewarding experience. It is a career where no two days will ever be exactly the same, because the behaviour of animals is often so unpredictable.
More than anything else, working with animals is fun, and it is this that makes it such an incredibly rewarding career move. Whether you are looking for a career change or simply want to volunteer your time, working with animals can be a fulfilling and enriching experience that goes far beyond just a job.