Can Pets Help Relieve Stress?

Humans are bombarded with a lot of daily stressors – money, work, kids, etc, and it can sometimes be hard to cope. Some people claim that having a pet can help with stress, but can a furry companion really relieve human stress? Here are some ways where we do know they can help.

. Some people claim that having a pet can help with stress, but can a furry companion really relieve human stress? Here are some ways where we do know they can help.

Improving Physical Health

The effect that pets have on humans has been the subject of many studies and there seems to be a lot more they contribute than we ever thought. Dr. Beck at Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine has done his own research that confirms other studies and found that:

  • Having a non-human companion can lower blood pressure. For example, petting a dog or a cat can relieve stress because it has been shown to lower your blood pressure.
  • Positive impact on heart health. “Fur-baby” owners generally get more exercise which can help with stress.  Moreover, owning a pet has been shown to have a positive impact on heart health. This is especially true for dog owners who take their dogs for daily walks, but even playing with a dog or a cat can have the same impact.
  • They help us when we feel lonely.  Feeling lonely is a source of stress.  Thus, they provide companionship and make us feel less lonely. 

Bettering Our Mental Health

Mental health is vital to our overall health. When we are emotionally stressed, our mental health can be impacted. According to a study co-partnered by the Human Animal Bond Research Institute, 74% of pet owners reported that having a pet helped with their mental health. That’s a big number!  Below are some other findings about pets:

  • Pets provide touch. Studies have shown that humans need to fulfill most senses to feel happy and productive. Notably, touch is a very important one that improves our overall well-being. Pets love to nuzzle!
  • Pets make us feel loved. Non-human friends are not judgmental and very attentive, and their affection reminds us that we are loved.
  • Pets can help with the mental development of children.  A study by Tufts University has shown that a child’s cognitive development and even reading skills can be improved by pets.  

Is It A Placebo?

The answer is no! Studies have shown that having an animal can actually lower the stress hormone cortisol. Consequently, the reduction of this hormone can relieve stress and anxiety. Animals can also help your body increase a stress-reducing hormone called “oxytocin.” By simply playing with your furry friend, you can instantly feel less stressed.

Also, there are service companions that are trained to deal with many mental and physical illnesses of their owners. These include pets trained for anxiety, panic attacks, mental disabilities, heart attacks, high blood pressure, etc. Service pets are especially good at spotting these common ailments. If you or someone you know might benefit from a service pet, talk to your doctor about ways to access service animals that might be a good fit. So, if you don’t have a pet but have been thinking about getting one, check out your local pet store or animal shelter.  They are more than just a man’s best friend!