How Your Pet May Improve Your Mental and Emotional Health

How Your Pet May Improve Your Mental and Emotional Health

Most people can’t help but smile when their dog greets them at the door, tail wagging in full force, or when their cat purrs and crawls onto their lap when they sit down after a long day. However, studies have shown that a pet’s companionship provides humans with more short- and long-term benefits than a simple, brief mood lift. While caring for a pet does come with a host of responsibilities and obligations, the reward of being an owner pays off in countless ways.

Pets Improve Your Mood and Attitude

When your dog reacts with joy to the prospect of a walk or your cat treats you to a cherished snuggle session after a big meal or a tasty treat, it feels good. Their happiness is your happiness. Providing for the needs and desires of your furry companion can boost your self-esteem and give you a sense of purpose. A pet’s affection or silly personality can even make you crack a smile in the worst of times. Tack on the potential for loads of playtime fun, and you have a four-legged bundle of joy to share your daily life and space with.

Pets Improve Your Overall Well-Being

One of the major ways pets can help boost your overall well-being is by helping you get outside more (ahem, regular walks and potty trips) and even pull you into a little exercise. You know this if you’ve ever thrown a ball around the backyard with your pup or scurried around the house with your cat’s favorite wand toy. Being outdoors boosts your vitamin D intake (especially important in the darker winter months), while physical activity will get those endorphins flowing.

Pets also help you stay in the moment during your time at home, while also keeping your mind off excess stress at work or in your social circle. They can also reduce your sense of loneliness or isolation if you live alone. A good petting session can be the ultimate relaxation technique — for both of you. Just as when you make physical contact with humans, gently petting willing animals can release oxytocin, a natural chemical that supports bonding and emotional well-being. You get to connect with your pet on a deeper level while reaping all these rewards, including reduced cortisol (stress hormone) levels.

Nervous about Family Allergies? When It Comes to the Kids, You May Not Need to Be

Especially in children, pets may actually reduce the risk of allergies. Though pet dander allergies are quite common and vary in severity, in some cases, early exposure to dander may help young children build up a tolerance. Children who are exposed to two or more furry friends as infants generally have less than half of the allergy risk experienced by kids in a pet-free zone — and that reduced risk isn’t just for pet dander allergies. It also applies to dust, grass, and ragweed allergies, as well as the overall risk of developing asthma. For families in which allergies are still a concern, certain breeds tend to shed less, and are therefore considered hypoallergenic.

Pets Help Those with Mental Health Issues

While, as you can see, animal companions offer positive benefits to anyone capable of caring for them, they may offer the most tangible benefits to those who suffer from serious mental illness. Because mental illness can be a lifelong battle, caring for a loved one who has been diagnosed with severe depression, bipolar disorder symptoms, or schizophrenia is a major commitment that may breed occasional burnout. Many pets, however, are known for their loyalty and consistent devotion to their humans, and this connection can provide a fountain of compassion and companionship to those who may be often or occasionally isolated from their support network.

Looking to return the favor and provide the best possible care for your pet while you’re at work, on vacation, or otherwise occupied? Contact Sarah’s Pet Care to schedule home visits, dog walking, off-leash park trips, overnight pet and house sitting, and more!