Pets are a powerfully positive influence.
Speaking in terms of mental health, the power of a pet is something many people benefit from.
My roommate spends a lot of time at her boyfriend’s house, leaving me home alone for the majority of the time. I also deal with anxiety and depression, so being isolated tends not to leave me feeling my best – which is why I looked into getting a cat.
According to an article from Helpguide, “Playing with a dog or cat can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine, which calm and relax.”
It’s such a simple solution. In fact, “Pet the Stress Away” is a whole event on campus because simply interacting with a playful pup can help lower one’s stress levels. The statistics on the helpfulness of a pet speak for themselves.
In a study from Human Animal Bond Research Institute, “74% of pet owners reported mental health improvements from pet ownership. 75% of pet owners reported a friend’s or family member’s mental health has improved from pet ownership.”
Having a pet is a positive responsibility; knowing that your animal depends on you for food and for affection is motivating. If you have to take care of something other than yourself you’re more likely to get up and get in gear.
When dealing with depression, the biggest issue tends to be finding a reason to get out of bed; if you’re responsible for the wellbeing of your pet you have an easy reason to get moving. The Mental Health Foundation explains that “Caring for a pet also gives your day purpose and reward, and a sense of achievement. It also helps you feel valuable and needed.”
Helpguide also states that, “Because pets live in the moment—they don’t worry about what happened yesterday or what might happen tomorrow—they can help you become more mindful and appreciate the joy of the present.”
Pets are always there for us. Coming home to a pet waiting for you at the door, excited to see you, makes you feel less alone. The companionship is unparalleled. You don’t get into fights with a dog, you don’t have to worry about your cat keeping a secret from you — they’re there to give you attention and only expect the same from you.
The concept that a pet can have such a powerful impact can be strange — but unconditional love is what having a cat or a dog is all about.