Benefits of Pets
We have all had our ups and downs throughout this past year. And, for many of us, our pets have been by our side throughout. Pet adoptions have been through the roof this past year as more and more of us seek to fill in the social gaps left to us through the isolation of the pandemic. Adoption of pets has been so high that some shelters are running out! In many places rates of adoption have increased by up to 50%. Let’s take a look at why loving a pet is another aspect of healthy living.
It’s okay, your pet really is your family member. The verdict is in. Anthropomorphizing your pet leads to health benefits! Researchers found that encouraging study participants to count their pets as a family member (part of their “in-group”) led to feelings of being better socially supported and they had better physical and mental wellbeing markers (McConnell,2019). So go ahead, baby talk them!
Greater life satisfaction. A survey of 236 American adults found that pet owners were indeed happier than their pet-less counterparts! The same survey found that dog owners scored highest on all aspects of wellbeing compared to cat owners (Sorry catties!). Those aspects included emotional regulation strategies, needs satisfaction, and the “big 5” personality traits (extroversion, neuroticism, agreeableness, openness, and conscientiousness).(Bao & Schreer, 2016) Even just interacting with a pet can boost one’s sense of wellbeing (Janssens, 2020)
Pets benefit us in many ways, surely a complete list is impossible. Some ways that they serve us are in terms of healthy behavior changes, emotional support, and harm reduction (hodgson et al). Many studies show that interaction with a pet increases the production of oxytocin levels and reduces cortisol levels. Oxytocin helps us to feel safe, connected, and loved. They can even help combat diseases like diabetes, anxiety, and dementia (Compitus, 2021). Some studies showed decreased use of analgesic medication among other benefits with use of therapy animals in rehabilitation facilities.
In a time of great upheaval pets have been a constant and reassuring presence for us. They are a part of our family, boost our mental and physical health, and give us love and unconditional acceptance. We are so thankful for their healing energy.
Written by Ashley
Allen R. McConnell, E. Paige Lloyd & Brandon T. Humphrey (2019) We Are Family: Viewing Pets as Family Members Improves Wellbeing, Anthrozoös, 32:4, 459-470, DOI: 10.1080/08927936.2019.1621516
Katherine Jacobs Bao & George Schreer (2016) Pets and Happiness: Examining the Association between Pet Ownership and Wellbeing, Anthrozoös, 29:2, 283-296, DOI: 10.1080/08927936.2016.1152721
Mayke Janssens, Jannes Eshuis, Sanne Peeters, Johan Lataster, Jennifer Reijnders, Marie-Jose Enders-Slegers & Nele Jacobs (2020) The Pet-Effect in Daily Life: An Experience Sampling Study on Emotional Wellbeing in Pet Owners, Anthrozoös, 33:4, 579-588, DOI: 10.1080/08927936.2020.1771061
Hodgson, K., Barton, L., Darling, M., Antao, V., Kim, F. A., & Monavvari, A. (2015). Pets’ Impact on Your Patients’ Health: Leveraging Benefits and Mitigating Risk. The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, 28(4), 526–534. https://doi.org/10.3122/jabfm.2015.04.140254
Compitus K. (2021) The Importance of Pets During a Global Pandemic: See Spot Play. In: Tosone C. (eds) Shared Trauma, Shared Resilience During a Pandemic. Essential Clinical Social Work Series. Springer, Cham.