Nothing can quite compare to the joy of returning home to a loyal companion after a long day. Whether they paw, fly or swim their way into our hearts, pets are superb at bringing some “paw-sitive” energy into our lives.
Numerous studies demonstrate that socializing with animals improves one’s psychological health as they cause an increase in oxytocin, serotonin and endorphin levels in the body – all of which are known for their stress-relieving and “feel-good” properties.
A research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that pet owners exhibited greater self-esteem, were more physically fit, and less lonely compared to non-owners. In the article, The Truth About Cats and Dogs: Pets Are Good for Mental Health of ‘Everyday People’, researchers found “considerable evidence that pets benefit the lives of their owners, both psychologically and physically, by serving as an important source of social support”.
Dog lover Paandiyeraj Nadumaran can certainly attest to the positive impact his pets have had in his life. The 29-year-old Kedah-born warehouse assistant has three dogs and he says that his beloved pets have brought him immense joy.
Recently, Paandiyeraj and his dogs became the subjects of a viral TikTok video after he uploaded a heartfelt video of him reuniting with his two Golden Retrievers, Simba and Nala. The video showed the two dogs warmly welcoming him home in Johor after he’d returned from Singapore after being away for 486 days.
In the video, that garnered over 1.2mil views in just one day, it was hard to tell who was the most excited: the two retrievers or Paandiyeraj.
The dogs could smell him, quite literally, from a mile away. Even though he still had his motorbike helmet and his mask on, the retrievers were wild with excitement, jumping excitedly, whining and wagging their tails furiously as they recognized their owner’s scent and also the sound of his motorcycle even though he hadn’t reached the house.
He says that reuniting with his four-legged friends after so long was “a surreal and special experience”.
“I last returned to Johor in August 2020,” said Paandiyeraj who usually commutes to Singapore for work. “At the time, I’d been away from my dogs for eight months. But then, when my fiancée got a job in Singapore, my childhood friend in Johor volunteered to look after my Golden Retrievers for me. Meanwhile, my fiancée’s sister agreed to look after my Shih Tzu, Lehlu, in KL,” he shares.
But, Paandiyeraj didn’t expect to be away from his dogs for such a long time. Unfortunately, because of the pandemic and travel restrictions, he couldn’t make it back earlier.
“As I embraced them, all I could think of at that moment was being with my dogs,” he says. ‘They’re like my children’
Paandiyeraj says that he can still remember the day that he first got his dogs, Simba and Lehlu in 2019, and Nala in 2020.
“Simba was around three-months-old while Nala and Lehlu were two-months-old respectively when I got them. It was a very special occasion for me because it was the beginning of my bond with them,” he shares.
Simba, Nala and Lehlu are extremely affectionate, playful and protective, he says.
According to Paandiyeraj, one of the cutest antics that really shows his dogs’ characters is how they all mope around after being scolded.
“I do scold my dogs whenever they misbehave. But after that, they show their displeasure at being scolded by ignoring me or looking away from me… until I make the first move and pet them,” he reveals with a laugh, explaining that it is “a very cute sight” to be hold.
Becoming a pet owner, he admits, does come with a lot of responsibilities.
And, aside from learning a lot about dogs, Paandiyeraj says that his pets have made him more disciplined. His schedule, he says, somewhat revolves around theirs.
“They are the reason I wake up, sleep and eat at specific times. They always get me moving and keep me active,” he shares.
He says that spending time with his dogs after a long day helps him to destress. Whenever he returns home from work, he’s always excited to pet and see his dogs.
“Simba, Nala and Lehlu are like my children,” he says. “They have become a huge part of my family. They’re very loyal and affectionate dogs who never fail to make me happy, and I love them very much.”
Paandiyeraj urges pet-owners and those who are thinking about getting a pet to look after their pets properly and to never neglect them.
“Our pets always give us unconditional love. They don’t ask for much – just our time and love,” he says.
There’s no question that cats are a popular choice for pets. Anissa Anis, 45, is an owner of three cats – namely Nyonyot, Honey and Georgie.
The lawyer from Petaling Jaya has always been an animal lover. Since young, she’d watch animal shows on TV and read books about all sorts of animals.
When she was older, she became committed to rescuing strays.
“I prefer to adopt and rescue rather than buy cats,” Anissa shares. “Whenever I see cats left on the streets, my heart goes out to them. I always want to bring them in.”
She recalls the time she picked up her youngest cat, Nyonyot, from outside a restaurant sometime in 2019.
“He was only three weeks old then. The moment I saw him, I felt this strong need to take him in,” she explains.
According to Anissa, what is most special about her cats is their human-like personalities.
All three of her cats have very distinct qualities: Nyonyot is very intelligent, Georgie is extremely absent-minded, and Honey is calm and collected.
“Nyonyot knows how to drink from my water filter. He always uses his nose to push the buttons. I had to put a lock on it just to make sure he doesn’t flood the house when I’m gone. He also knows how to open doors and cupboards by jumping on the handles,” says the proud cat mum.
On the other hand, she shares that Honey and Georgie don’t get along well at all.
“In fact, Honey always runs away whenever she sees Georgie, who, as oblivious as always, will still go up to her.
“It’s rare to see Honey and Georgie getting along, especially with Nyonyot who’s mischievous and enjoys instigating fights between the two.
“He’s probably going to rule the world one day,” she jokes heartily.
Despite them being mischievous, Anissa loves her cats.
To her, all their antics made them “all the more endearing”.
She adds that every moment spent with her cats is special, and returning home to her three “children” after a long day’s work is an instant mood booster.
“My cats are all very affectionate and loving. I always feel less stressed and less lonely whenever I’m with them,” she says.
“Even though they’re ‘just animals’, there’s a strong connection between us, and I cannot imagine my life without them.”
Apart from providing instant serotonin, Anissa reveals that her cats have played a huge part in bringing her family closer too.
“Pets are part of the family. Whenever we take care of pets together, we’re essentially taking care of another family member.
“Whenever I go on a holiday, I’d get a family member to take care of my pets.
“And whenever my pets fall sick, I’d bring them to the vet together with one of my family members. All this allows us to grow closer,” she explains.
She encourages pet owners to treat their pets like a family member and to always shower them with love and care.
“Having a pet is like having a child. It’s a commitment, not a trend,” she says.
Anissa shares that her dream is to one day open a cat sanctuary in Malaysia and rescue as many stray cats as possible.
“Seeing them abandoned on the streets is heartbreaking.
“I think it’s important to give them a better life as they’re living beings,” she concludes.