How Pets Affect our Mental Health

How Pets Affect our Mental Health

There is no denying that the bond between humans and their pets is a powerful one. But did you know that pet ownership can improve your mental health as well?

 Studies on the connection between pets and mental health were first published in the 1980s. So what exactly did that study show?

 When a subject pet a dog they found that the subject’s blood pressure went down, the heart rate slowed, breathing became more regular, and muscle tension relaxed. AKA: Reduced stress.

 How do these results translate into the impact of pets on their owners’ mental health?

 Increases physical activity

Most dog owners take their dogs out at least once a day for a walk or a run. Getting outside and physically increases Vitamin D exposure and heart health. It also provides an opportunity meet other dog owners, and others out exercising.

 Provides companionship

The companionship that a pet provides is beneficial to all pet owners, and particularly those who are older, or those who live alone. Spending the day with your pet, and caring for them, provides a sense of purpose.

 Reduces anxiety

Stress-related hormones are reduced after only five minutes of playing with a pet. Reducing these hormones reduces anxiety by increasing our level of serotonin and dopamine. The “happiness hormones” are engaged through interaction with a pet.


Creates structure

A lack of a daily routine can make someone feel unmoored. With a pet relying on its owner for meals and exercise, daily structure and order are created.


Builds relationship skills

Particularly for children, a relationship with a pet or animal can help to foster relationship-building skills. Emotional attachment is learned through interacting with the pet, and built upon with peers.

 Pets are also beneficial to those who have been diagnosed with specific mental health conditions. 

 A 2016 study with participants with severe mental health illnesses discovered that 60% of its participants considered their pet a member of their supportive connections. Furthermore, caring for the pet gave them a sense of control, self-worth and security.

 So is getting pet the right move for your mental health? While it’s tempting to rush out and pick out the next adorable pup or kitten that you see, there are some things to consider.

 Lifestyle: Make sure that you have the time to commit to a new furry family member. They need you as much as you need them.

 Cost: Pet food, toys, health care. The payoff of a pet is enormous, but the costs of them should be considered as well.

 Exercise: Choose a pet that matches your activity level. If you love long walks, then an active dog would be a great fit for you, but if you’re more of an indoors kind of person, a cat might be just the right match.

 With over 95% of pet owners saying they feel their pet is part of their family, it’s clear to see that pets quickly become integral members of the household and have a great impact on their owners’ lives.