Today is National Pet Day (April 11), an unofficial holiday celebrating all kinds of pets and encouraging people to adopt them from shelters instead of buying them from breeders. It is also for raising awareness of the benefits of having a pet for human health and happiness. Donating to a local animal shelter or charity that helps pets in need is a wonderful way to celebrate National Pet Day.
Today in the U.S., 67% of households have a pet, and most owners say their pets are part of the family, providing unconditional love, acceptance, and a sense of purpose and responsibility. Spending time with our pets gives relief when feeling particularly stressed and emotional support to cope with life changes such as moving, retiring, or losing a loved one. In a Verywell Mind survey, 47% of Americans in therapy say they spend time with pets to help with their mental health. Pets provide excellent social support and stress relief – perhaps more than people.
3 ways pets relieve stress
Just like pastimes that relax us, pets also provide a sense of calm and comfort, helping us cope with negative emotions like sadness and loneliness. Studies have shown that pet owners have lower levels of depression and anxiety than non-pet owners. Petting or stroking an animal can improve mood by increasing oxytocin and dopamine levels and reducing cortisol levels. Another study found that when someone pets a friendly dog, blood pressure decreases, heart rate slows, breathing becomes more regular, and muscle tension relaxes.
Another benefit of pet ownership is exercise. Walking a dog, playing with a cat, or riding a horse can burn calories, strengthen muscles, and improve cardiovascular health. In turn, exercise boosts your health, mood, and energy. Studies show that dog owners spend more time walking than non-pet owners. Most people with dogs say their walks are more enjoyable, plus the walk is good for the dog too.
Pets can help you connect with others who love animals. Being out with your pet can be a great icebreaker when meeting other pet owners, making you more approachable, outgoing, friendly, and confident.
Pets are great for stress relief; they are there for you in ways other people can’t. They remind you that you aren’t alone and keep you from feeling isolated. And they benefit from our love and care too.
If you already have a pet or are planning to get one, take good care of them and enjoy their company as much as they enjoy yours. I am grateful for my German Shepherd mix, Zoey, who has been my partner in lowering my stress!
Interested in getting a pet? In that case, seriously consider the commitment and responsibility of pet ownership, which includes choosing a pet that suits your personality, lifestyle, and budget. To read more about adopting a rescue, read my post Is Adopting a Rescue Dog Right for You?