• October 27th, 2021
    Written by: Kimberly

    For many people, seeing a dog’s wagging tail and lolling tongue brings a smile to their faces. So does petting a cat’s soft fur. Many pet owners count their animals as one of their greatest sources of happiness.

    The joy of owning a cat or dog is more than getting to laugh at their antics. While we provide our pets with love and care, our pets help boost our mental and physical health on a chemical level. This is why animals have long been used in therapy settings, but also why they make invaluable additions to your family.

    How Dogs and Cats Improve Health

    Spending time with a dog or cat likely leaves you with a sense of happiness and peace. To back up this anecdotal evidence, scientists have performed numerous studies over the years to confirm that being around dogs and cats leads to:

    • Lower Blood Pressure - Studies have shown that the act of petting a dog or cat results in an immediate decrease in blood pressure, making you feel more calm. Pet owners also will often have lower average blood pressure than people who don’t own pets.
    • Decrease Cortisol Levels - Cortisol is a hormone in the brain that causes stress. Spending just 10 minutes a day with a dog or cat significantly lowers the levels of cortisol in the brain. Living with a cat or dog helps even more.
    • Increase Serotonin and Dopamine - When these chemicals are released in the brain, we feel calm and happy. Scientists have confirmed that petting an animal prompts their release, which is why we often feel so happy afterwards.

    In healthy pet-owner relationships, your dog or cat depends on you to care for them. This benefits owners as well by giving you a purpose, a sense of control, and a routine, all of which can help you navigate unexpected challenges in your life.

    Another benefit for your mental health is the way a dog or cat can help you feel more present. Pets live in the moment without all the high stress thoughts we deal with on a daily basis. Catching sight of the butterfly your dog is bounding after or glancing out the window to see what your cat sees helps connect you to the present and relieve anxiety.

    It is not just mental health that pets benefit either. Most dogs require daily exercise and the time you spend walking, running, or playing with your dog is also exercise for you. Tugging around a toy mouse for a cat or a similar low impact game is valuable exercise for less mobile pet owners.