The science behind why pet owners are happier and healthier overall

From a dog’s perspective, there are only a handful of things that stress me out: when Romeo gets attention from the Caiola family before I do, when I’m hungry or when I can’t find my bone. But regardless of what’s causing my stress, I get over it pretty quickly.

On the other hand, I’ve noticed humans feel anxiety and stress from many different sources, and sometimes it can be really hard to manage. I did some research on ways people can combat stress, and interestingly, having a pet is one of the suggestions.

Did you know pet owners over age 65 make 30 percent fewer visits to their doctors than those without pets? Here’s the science behind why pet owners are happier and healthier overall:

hand petting head of cat

1. The act of petting triggers a relaxation response in the body 

Research shows that petting your dog or cat has a mindand mood-boosting benefits.

“Humans interacted with their pet dogs and found that stroking the animal promoted the release of serotonin, prolactin and oxytocin—all hormones that can play a part in elevating mood,” according to a study “The Pet Connection,” published in Mind, Mood and Memory.

2. Animals put us in the present moment

Animals are some of the best mindfulness teachers. For a cat or dog, being mindful is effortless. They experience life moment-to-moment, reminding you to embrace the here and now.

dog licking man's face

3. Pets provide unconditional love 

Animals give love with no expectations or conditions. Relationships between people can be complicated, but pets will love you no matter what.

“With a pet, you can just feel,” according to psychologist Dr Teri Wright. “You don’t have to worry about hurting your pet’s feelings or getting advice you don’t want.”

4. Taking care of an animal gives us a sense of responsibility

The duties of being a pet owner give you an excuse to focus your attention on something other than yourself. Dr Ian Cook – psychiatrist and director of the Depression Research and Clinic Program at UCLA – says, “Taking care of a pet can help give you a sense of your own value and importance.” It will remind you that you are capable – that you can do more than you might think.

Do you have a cat or dog that helps with your anxiety or stress? Share your story in the comments!



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