Being a Pet Parent involves caring for an animal that relies on you for food, shelter, support, and affection. You invest your time and resources to provide them with the best possible life, bringing them happiness and security daily. It’s a relationship based on their constant need for your care and attention.
But what about you? What do you experience, and how do you benefit from your pet(s)? While most people would express that their pets bring them happiness — this relationship goes beyond joy. The bond between humans and animals has a rich history, and we have proof that there's a dynamic benefit to many aspects of our mental health.
To start, having a pet can reduce loneliness and provide a strong sense of purpose. No matter how isolated we feel or become, pets are always there for us, offering unconditional love and support that we don’t always get from humans. Simply spending time with them can dispel feelings of isolation and boost our moods.
Then there’s a measured reduction of stress and anxiety. Multiple studies have shown that interacting with animals can lower cortisol levels, one of the primary hormones associated with stress. This can positively impact your mental health, leading to more relaxation and healthy thinking. Whether you’re cuddling a cat or playing with a dog, the mere presence of a pet can help you relax and feel more at ease.
Another benefit lies in the fundamental responsibility of pet care. Although it's a constant obligation, it can offer a valuable sense of structure and routine, which can be particularly helpful for individuals with daily mental health challenges. Caring for another living being can instill a sense of purpose in anyone and help establish a healthier everyday schedule.
And when it comes to trauma, PTSD, neurodivergence, and other serious mental health issues, nothing quite helps those who need it to thrive like the support of an animal. Whether you’re a veteran returning home, struggling with unresolved trauma, on the autism spectrum, or suffering a loss, a cat or dog specifically trained in support can be an absolute godsend.
Odean Cusack put it best in his landmark 1988 book Pets and Mental Health: “Anyone who has ever owned a pet will readily verify the benefits of associating with [them]. Animals are fun to be with and comforting to hold. Their antics inspire humor and a sense of carefreeness, a return to childhood with its buoyant spirits. Caring for pets encourages nurturance, responsibility, and adherence to a daily schedule. Pets enable owners to reach outside themselves and to put aside fears of an uncertain future. Pets live in the immediate moment, and interacting with them makes us keenly aware of the present with all its joys and idiosyncrasies.”
Living in the moment may be the best part of being a Pet Parent. Whether you’re dealing with depression, anxiety, trauma, seasonal mood swings, or something more serious, cats and dogs ground us in the now, connecting us with the simple joy of life. We can be ourselves with them, connecting with our most authentic state of being and shedding the stress of daily life.
So, to anyone struggling with their mental health, might we suggest... getting a pet!