"Pets brighten our world": Dr Chris Brown talks pets and health

Dr Chris Brown, 38, is on a mission to encourage pet ownership to boost our health. He tells Melissa Field why animals are good for us.

By Melissa Field
He hasn't had the best night's sleep thanks to his cat Cricket's determination to purr loudly on his chest at 3am, but TV vet Dr Chris Brown remains upbeat about his passion – getting more Australian homes to benefit from having a pet about the place.
"There's no doubt that animals make us feel better," says Dr Chris, who's championed the Keep Australia Pet Friendly campaign since 2016.
"There's an amazing feeling of wellbeing bubbling around most people when they're with a pet, and now tangible scientific evidence is coming through about the actual physical and emotional benefits."
As part of the campaign, The Healthcare Economics of Pets report found that pet owners visit the doctor 11% less in a year than non-pet owners.
This equates to a $700 saving in medical and related expenses per person per year with Australia's pet owners creating $2 billion in healthcare budget savings each year.
A 10% increase in pet ownership would save our health system an additional $202 million per year!
So it seems pets are good for us physically, emotionally – and financially.

"Physically, pets are good for us because we get more exercise with them, we feel fitter, and we sleep better – usually! – and consequently we visit the doctor less, and require less days off work or prescribed medications," says Dr Chris.
"The report manages to quantify those benefits financially."
In terms of our mental wellbeing, Dr Chris says any pet – be it a cat, a dog, a goldfish or guinea pig – "can have a significant uplift".
"Mental health effects are probably a bit harder to measure but I can't tell you how many times I've had a client come through the clinic and mention that in difficult times, pets have been the happiest , most dependable influence in their life."
"Pets make our lives brighter, give people a reason to carry on and a structure to life around a pet's requirements and routine. Pets also ease loneliness. Our animals are little medical professionals - personal trainers, confidantes and friends in one adorable package."

In fact, Dr Chris thinks that pets are so valuable to our health if their feel-good qualities were available in a pill "every doctor in the country would be writing the script".
Dr Chris has made a career out of his love for animals.
After graduating from The University of Sydney with first class honours in veterinary science in 2001, he went on to treat animals around the country in practice, before finding fame as a TV vet first on Harry's Practice, then Burke's Backyard, Today and Bondi Vet.
He now covers travel and animal stories on The Living Room, regularly guest hosts The Project and has shown off his comic chops alongside Julia Morris as co-host of I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here and Sunday Takeaway.

He's also busy caring for his own two furry friends – Cricket the cat, a domestic shorthair and Reg, a four-year-old Kelpie who get on surprisingly well, says Dr Chris.
"Cricket stands up for herself. She runs the house," he says. "For example, after waking me up at 3 am last night, she then settled on my pillow so that her whiskers were tickling me. And then she decided to massage my face with her paws, just in case I wasn't fully awake and ready to play!"
Long-suffering Reg takes Cricket's domineering foibles in his stride. "He's not the most intelligent Kelpie around, but he has a sweet temperament – although he still hasn't worked out how he ended up playing second fiddle to a cat one-tenth his size. I think he missed the memo that said he's supposed to be in charge!"

When he does get a spare moment, Dr Chris says he runs, swims and surfs to stay "sane".
"I'm not good doing nothing," he says. Which is why this passion project is so important to him.
"Via the Keep Australia Pet-Friendly campaign, we're making some headway with different levels of government around the benefits of pet ownership," he says. "Local government is becoming more responsive in making more pet- friendly outdoor spaces available; we're hitting up State governments shortly about strata laws so that it will be easier to own a pet in apartments and we've got meetings lined up with the federal government around pets and health policy. We've got to hit all levels of government to get results though, so it's quite complex - but notice is beginning to be taken."
With even a sleep-deprived Dr Chris on the case, it won't be too long before everyone recognises the feelgood factor of pets.
For more information go to: [www.petpositives.com.au].

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