10 ways pets can improve mental health

The bond between a pet and a human is like no other, pets offer companionship and unconditional love and affection. It is no surprise that studies in pets have shown that owning a pet has benefits on mental and physical health. In a study asking pet owners if they believe their mental health was improved but having a pet, a staggering 74% agreed that owning a pet had a positive effect on their mental health. There have been many studies showing the positive effects of pets on human mental health. 

There are around 6,500 registered PAT (pets as therapy) animals, these pets and their owners will visit places such as children's hospitals and care homes for the elderly. These visits have been shown to improve morale and encourage patients and residents to interact.

  • Interacting with pets lowers our stress hormone. Studies have shown that after just 5 minutes of interacting with our pets reduces our stress hormone cortisol levels.
  • Playing with a pet can boost our “happy hormones” serotonin and dopamine.
  • Petting or even just being within the presence of a pet has been proven to lower blood pressure.
  • They give us purpose by making us feel needed. The act of caring for something else and having the responsibility for another living creature has been shown to improve mental health. This even applies to pets that aren’t cuddly like reptiles and fish.
  • They give us a reason to exercise and get outside. Pets like dogs and horses are perfect examples. Getting more exercise is known to reduce stress and depression.
  • Their companionship helps us feel less lonely; they also encourage us to become more sociable as they are a topic for discussion.
  • Animals will love you unconditionally; it has been found that adults and children alike are more likely to open up to a pet than a human therapist.
  • They fulfil the need of touch, it has been found that touch can reduce stress; builds trust and can even reduce violent tendencies.
  • They provide entertainment and can make us laugh; laughter reduces stress and releases those “feel good” hormones.
  • They help us live in the moment, just as they themselves do. This helps people who have been through traumatic events such as car accidents or people suffering from PTSD.