Pet Articles: Wellness

How Do Pets Help Our Mental Health?

Having pets can help improve mental and spiritual well-being.

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A human holding cat and dog

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.

A lady holding a cat

Research shows many benefits associated with being a Pet Parent. Pets can positively impact mental health by reducing stress hormones like cortisol, lowering blood pressure, and even mitigating feelings of loneliness. 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. Whether you’re cuddling a cat or playing with a dog, their mere presence can help you relax and feel more at ease.

Pets also play an important role in therapeutic settings. Therapy dogs, for example, are often used in hospitals and nursing homes to help reduce stress and anxiety in patients.

Additionally, children with ADHD may also benefit from interacting with dogs, which can help improve focus and social behaviors. Engaging with pets has even been associated with improving children’s cognitive development, and they have been utilized in formal therapeutic interventions through Animal-Assisted Therapy.

A man holding cat

When it comes to trauma, PTSD, neurodivergence, and other mental health issues, there’s nothing quite like the support of an animal for those who need it. 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.”

A lady with two dogs

Another way pets can improve your mental health 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 and help establish a healthy everyday schedule. However, there are considerations to keep in mind, like the financial commitments and time demands that come with pet parenting.

Man with a dog

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!