The Importance of Pets and Mental Health

ruckus the cat We adopted a pet last fall. Our newest feline friend, Ruckus has prompted this blog post. Ruckus lowers my stress level. He is a fun companion, who at the end of a busy day (for all of us), is more than happy to curl up on my lap or head-butt my chin. It made me wonder if there was any research into the area of pets and mental health. Here is what I discovered:

Pets and Mental Health

  • National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland has done research into animals and well being. They have found that pets can reduce cortisol levels, improve feelings of loneliness, and boost your mood. NIH has also been studying the impact of animals on child development, and have found that animals increase social skills and self-regulation skills.
  • Animals increase productivity in the workplace and build a better sense of team. Read the American Heart Association article, 5 Ways Pets Help with Stress and Mental Health.
  • A blog published by the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) states that pets give us a sense of purpose; they get us up and moving; and generally provide a calming effect. Read more here: Benefits of Pets for our Mental Health.
  • Pets make us feel loved. They give us a boost of oxytocin, the feel good hormone.
  • Dogs, in particular, can be trained to become emotional support animals. They provide comfort, companionship, and security to individuals with physical disabilities or mental illnesses. They are often used with veterans and others suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

So what does this mean for you? I am not suggesting that you rush out to get a pet. I am suggesting however, that if you do have a pet, that you spend more time with them to reduce stress, increase connection and generally improve your mood. Here’s Ruckus casually hanging out in the Christmas tree.

If you have a dog, getting outside and walking them will combat depression, anxiety and stress. If you don’t have a pet, going to a friend or family member’s house to interact with an animal can work wonders. Another option is to volunteer with a local rescue or SPCA and walk dogs or socialize with cats.

With all the upset and negativity in the world today, spending time with animals can be an effective form of self-care. Take a moment and make yourself a priority. Spend time with FiFi, Fido, or in my case, Ruckus.

Listening. Guiding. Caring.