The Impact of Pets on Our Health and Well-Being

Pets and Our Everyday Lives

It is well known by those of us with pets that our furry animal friends bring a lot of joy to our everyday lives… and maybe some frustration from time-to-time when our pets get into things they shouldn’t or make a mess in the yard or in the house. However, the love we have for our pets far outweighs the stress of taking care of and cleaning up after them. In fact, our pets can have a positive impact on our emotional well-being, making it easier to cope with the stressors and hard situations we experience day-to-day. Research and personal reports show that pets influence many areas of our health and well-being[1].

Ways Pets Can Make Us Feel Better

There are many ways that pets impact our overall health. Dr. Lynette Hart, from the University of California, Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, has found that our pets impact our health and well-being in the following ways[1]:

1)      Pets can improve your marriage by giving each person in the marriage a picture of how their spouse handles responsibility, by reducing stress between marriage partners, and by bringing fun and laughter into the home through the pet’s funny behaviors;

2)      Pets can help kids function better emotionally by providing social and emotional support when they’re having a hard time; and

3)      Pets can have a positive impact on some medical conditions, such as blood pressure, cholesterol levels, cardiovascular health, depression, and survival rates after a heart attack.

Some other ways pets have been found to be helpful to our well-being is by helping us to adjust to serious illness and death, to be less anxious, to feel safer, to relax, to have access to physical touch and affection, to lift our mood and feel less lonely, to have something to care for, to stay more active, to have consistency and a routine in our lives, and to have better and more social interactions[2].

How Has Your Pet Helped You?

As you think about your own pet or interaction with an animal in general—maybe seeing or hearing the birds chirp outside or the squirrels and bunnies chasing each other or the deer roaming through the woods—what have you noticed about your mood during these times? Do you feel joy, peace, happiness, or even a sense of calm? Have you felt more loved, appreciated, or needed? Maybe you were overcome with a sense of safety and security.

For me personally, as an owner of a furry, little kitty, I have found that my kitty has been able to cheer me up when I’m sad and has provided a sense of calm when I’m feeling really stressed out. I’ve also noticed that this little kitty has the power to relieve tension between me and my spouse with her ridiculous behaviors, allowing me and my spouse to be pulled out of our defensive and reactive emotions so that we can discuss and resolve the real problem in a more beneficial way.

The next time you’re feeling down, stressed, scared, uncertain, or unloved, I encourage you to allow your pet to be a source of support and encouragement; and if you don’t have a pet, allow yourself to take in the sounds and sights of the birds, squirrels, bunnies, and deer. Take note of these animals’ impact on your mood and well-being in that moment and use these experiences to give you hope to keep moving forward.

My stress-relieving kitty, Terra May