4 Mar 21
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man with his pet cat

Counsellors at Gambling Help Services are always hearing from people whose gambling improved when they decided they wanted a cat, dog or other animal in their lives.

We know that people begin to gamble for all sorts of reasons. Here are some of the most common, and how pet ownership can help.

1. To relieve loneliness

One of the most common reasons people gamble is to relieve loneliness. At a club or hotel they feel they are not alone, even though they may not speak to anyone while playing the pokies — but there is another way to feel less alone. Research shows that pet owners are 40 per cent more likely to feel happier about themselves, more successful and less isolated or lonely.

2. To relieve stress

People also gamble to get some relief from the stresses in their lives. They say that once in front of a poker machine, they are able to forget everything. Counsellors call this feeling “being in the zone”. If you are gambling to relieve stress, pet ownership is a great alternative. Animals are great stress relievers, and people who are pet owners are less likely to suffer long-term health problems. There are a lot of possibilities for why pets improve our health — the structure provided by caring responsibilities, the exercise afforded by walking or playing with your pet, or the endorphins released by the affection you share. We’re not exactly sure why, but pet ownership seems to lead to a greater sense of health, wellbeing and longevity for most people.

Best of all, pet ownership and connection contributes to a greater sense of overall wellbeing and contentment. We all suffer stress and sometimes turn to less healthy options to cope, but turning to a pet who loves you unconditionally is priceless. Really, there is nothing quite so heart-warming than something with four paws (or two wings, or one long slithering body) greeting you every morning.

3. To make money

People also gamble in the misguided attempt to make money when they have fallen into debt. People gambling to make money are most likely to ask, “but how can I afford a pet?”

They’re right. There are costs associated with owning a pet, however: bonding with a pet often motivates us to be a better version of ourselves, and to build a better version of our lives. We feel responsible for our pet and therefore useful and needed. We do what it takes to take care of them.

Our pets need and love us, which makes us feel loved, more connected and potentially less likely to turn to a gambling venue for emotional needs.

Feeling responsible for the care of another being can mean we begin to talk better care of ourselves physically and financially. For example, the need to budget for food or vet care for a pet may help us reprioritise how we spend our money and help us make less impulsive financial decisions.

If you are thinking of bringing a pet into your life, perhaps a talk with a financial counsellor who can help you make a financial plan. Alternatively, check out MoneySmart to find a budget planner that will help you on your way to pet ownership.

There are lots of different ways that owning a pet can help to improve your life, so do yourself the kindness of considering it. If you’d like to chat to a counsellor about the decision, we’re here — free, confidential, 24/7. Just give us a call on 1800 858 858 or chat to us online.

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