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Mental Health Benefits of a Pet Owner

Pets are not only adorable and snuggly, but they also provide humans with significant mental health benefits. They can relieve loneliness and depression by sharing life with us. 

Did you know that your pup is capable of understanding your feelings?

Dogs are also loyal to their owners and will look into their eyes to gauge their emotional state if you’re feeling sad or uptight.

In addition, they are experts in interpreting our body langue, tone of voice, and gestures – that’s what happens when you don’t have words to use. 

According to Barkspot, pets can have a profound effect on their owners’ mental health through a powerful bond. Pets can make us happy, improve our heart health, and even give children emotional and social skills through unconditional love and companionship.

Research shows that interacting with animals reduces cortisol (a stress-related hormone) and lowers blood pressure.

Your pet’s emotional support can boost your mood, give you a sense of belonging, and increase social interaction.

Let’s take a look at how your pets can help improve your mental health.

Mental Health Benefits of a Pet Owner

Pets alleviate stress

Thirty years ago, psychologist Alan Beck of Purdue University and psychiatrist Aaron Katcher of the University of Pennsylvania conducted the first study on the link between pets and mental health.

They found that when a person touches a dog, for example, regularly, they present lower blood pressure, slower heart rate, regular breathing, and relaxed muscle tension. 

Other studies showed that playing with a pet for five minutes already brings benefits to your mental health.

For example, interacting with a friendly dog can reduce levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, and increase the release of oxytocin, which is another chemical in the body that reduces stress naturally.

For that reason, pets have become an integral part of therapy.

Petting animals is also a sensory stress reliever and can quickly make us feel calmer.

Hands of owner petting head of dog

Pets improve mood and fight depression

A Human-Animal Bond Research Institute survey of family physicians shows that 87 percent of their patients who had a pet at home showed improved mood.

Pets can be a distraction from depression symptoms and encourage their owners to engage in healthy activities. 

They also help people cope with long-term mental health issues and make their owners laugh more with their playful spirit.

Serotonin and dopamine levels increase when we interact with our pets, calming and relaxing our nervous system. Laughing and smiling at our pet’s adorable behavior can help release these happy hormones.

If you adopt a pet from a shelter, for example, you give them a new chance at life and can feel happy knowing that you saved a pet who would have been euthanized otherwise.

Older woman hugging a large white dog

Pets reduce loneliness

A pet is an excellent way to break the ice. Pets provide the kind of social support that reduces social anxiety and a sense of loneliness.

In addition, pets provide us with a sense of purpose since we have to care for them. Simple things like feeding, taking them for a walk, bathing them, and attending to their needs make humans realize that they are not alone.

Pets are also great listeners, and they will often respond to our communication.

So even if you’re at home by yourself, your pet will be keeping you company, so you don’t have to feel lonely.

As we mentioned before, pets are usually in tune with our feelings, and because they care about us too, they will do their best to make us feel better.

The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology published a study in 2011 that found pet owners felt less lonely, had better self-esteem, and were more social.

Woman and dog standing beside a body of water

Pets improve wellbeing

It’s basically an absolute truth that our furry friends fill our lives with joy.

It’s difficult not to feel loved and well when we have our pets close by.

Their companionship can help us feel less anxious and mindful since dogs and cats don’t worry about the past nor the future — they live in the moment. 

Pets also allow us to create and follow a routine since we have to care for them.

Most pets have to be fed at a specific time, have special diets, go outside to use up energy, and more. 

If you have wanted to lose a few pounds, a dog can encourage you to walk more.

For example, people living in public housing who walked therapy dogs five days a week for up to 20 minutes lost an average of 14.4 pounds without changing their diet.

Having your child interact with a pet can be highly beneficial. For example, showing them how to care for dogs and cats can help them manage aggressive behavior, be more compassionate, and build healthy relationships.

Sick woman holding a large black dog

Pets can help people with long-term health issues

If you see people walking around with an emotional support animal, be mindful that their pet is there to help the person deal with complicated feelings and situations.

The role of an emotional support animal is to provide comfort to alleviate the symptoms of a person’s disability. Under U.S. law, an emotional support animal is not a pet and can be any species.

Emotional support and service animals are different.

There is no specific training required for emotional support animals, nor do they need to do tasks that mitigate mental illness.

They provide companionship, unconditional love, and affection to an individual who needs support, comfort, or aid.

On the other hand, service animals perform specific tasks, such as safely assisting the blind to walk on the streets. 

Pets offer security and reinforce stable conditions to their owners, who can turn to them when they need.

In addition, our puppies and kitties can be a distraction from distressing situations and symptoms.

Woman hugging a white dog

Last word

Even if you feel your mental health is in check, pets can be immensely helpful to you in terms of companionship.

Everyone needs a little love that is pure and given freely. If you don’t have a pet, you can still get the benefits of one.

Hang out more often with a friend that owns a cat, or offer to walk your neighbor’s dog.

You can also find side-hustles as a petsitter. 

Did you know some animal shelters and rescue organizations offer pet rental programs?

For example, you can take dogs and cats available for adoption on walks or out on playdates.

In addition, you can foster an animal temporarily until it is adopted or until you decide whether the animal is right for you.

Check out fostering programs with your local shelter.

Felicia Costin

Monday 20th of September 2021

I agree with all of these! My rabbits can always make me feel better when I’m having a rough day. It is also wonderful to have them when my husband is not home and I’m feeling lonely. Thanks for this post!!

Anita C

Friday 10th of September 2021

My pets calm my anxiety and when I'm in a bad mood they lift me up. They are my world that brings so much joy

Thomas Gibson

Saturday 4th of September 2021

My dog helps me tremendously with my depression.

Sarah L

Saturday 4th of September 2021

I need to get another cat. My last cat died. These health benefits are true.

Debbie P

Thursday 2nd of September 2021

These benefits are so true!

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