Pet owners know the joy of being greeted and the end of a long day by their tail-wagging dog, or by snuggling on the couch with their cat purring contentedly by their side.
Those same pet owners know that it may be impossible to sleep in on Saturdays, but it is the price we gladly pay. Dogs love their routines of eating and taking a walk, and don’t really care that you don’t have to work that day. Cat owners know the “joy” of waking to their cats sitting on their chests, somehow willing you awake with their intense stares. (when that doesn’t work, my cat resorts to nipping my nose or my fingers…whatever body part isn’t hidden under a pillow).
Pets are known to have help benefits for their owners. Anyone who has ever had a fish knows how they instantly relax when gazing into the fish tank. Simply petting a furry friend is known to lower blood pressure in studies.
Pets can also have a profound positive effect on the mental well-being and outlook of people.
According to a poll taken by the American Psychiatric Association, Those who said their pets positively impact their mental health cited several key benefits, including:
- Help reduce stress and anxiety (69%).
- Provide unconditional love and support (69%)
- Offer companionship (69%).
- Provide a calming presence (66%).
- Are true friends (63%).
Dogs especially provide incentive to stay active. Dogs need to be walked several times a day if you live in an urban or suburban area. This is a great way to sneak in some exercise that doesn’t take the motivation and money of a gym membership or the guilt associated with walking past your treadmill!
Another reason they help us is that they require you to care for them! Anytime we care for another sentient being, it has a way of boomeranging right back to us.
Dogs are so well known for being the ambassadors of unconditional love that they have been given the well-deserved title of “man’s (women’s) best friend for a very good reason. They adore their owners and see them in the best possible light. It is often a tendency for many people to look at themselves through a funhouse mirror. Our views are distorted and often ugly. We then hold a magnifying glass up to every imperfection. But guess what? Our pets hold up a loving mirror to our faces…they a full of loving admiration for us.
Of course, dogs don’t deserve all the praise. In the poll cited above, dat owners were more likely than dog owners to say their pets offer companionship, provide a calming presence and help reduce stress and anxiety. I have also owned cats my entire life. That’s right…I have not lived a single day of my life without a cat. They are easier for all phases of life. Apartment living, city living, moving to a house…have cat, will travel just a bit easier than if you have a large breed dog. The bonds owners have with their cats are just as satisfying and rewarding…just don’t expect all the praise! Cats have their own love language that is typically a bit more subdued.
Is pet ownership for everyone?
The American Psychiatric Association1 also polled pet owners on their concerns regarding pet ownership, and not surprising, they are all the factors you need to consider before adopting. When asked how much they worried about various stressors related to pets, pet owners were most worried about their pets aging or passing away (71%) and their pets’ health conditions (66%). Over half also worried about arrangements while traveling (56%) and healthcare related expenses (58%).
Many factors need to be considered before completing your adoption:
- Do I work long hours away from home? A cat may be a better choice
- Do I like to travel? Will my pet come with me or will I find a sitter?
- Can I budget for every day care? Adoption fees, healthy food, litter, boarding, vet bills, grooming, etc can add up. Obviously many people find it is worth it, as pet care is one of the fastest growing industries, even during our economic downturn.
- Do I have the funds if I have a big veterinary expense? Pets like people tend to need more care toward the end of their lives. Committing yourself to take care of their health needs and their comfort is a choice you make today. One of my favorite tools to help take the sting out of big and small vet bills is to save with a pet savings account.
- How would I handle the death of my pet?
- What type or breed of pet is best for me? Reputable shelters can often tell you the personality traits of a certain pet or of a breed in particular. Please never buy a designer pet!
- Pets are a life-long commitment and some have been known to live 20+ years. My childhood cat Punkin lived to be 21! The saddest thing of all is seeing animals turned into shelters because the owners did not take all of these points into account.
What if all of the benefits to you sound good, but it is a commitment you aren’t sure you are ready to make?
Check with local shelters in your area to see how you can volunteer. There are many opportunities to walk dogs, play with cats, read to animals, help fundraise and more. One little-known secret is that many shelters use foster care for their animals. As my children were growing up (and to this day) we foster kittens. What is more fun than a bunch of kittens??
Fostering is a win-win for the foster parent and the pet. They are reintroduced into a loving home and are able to acclimate without the stress of a shelter. The foster would get proper training and vet care and food are paid for by the shelter. It is also an excellent way to see if owning a pet fits into your lifestyle…and you would even be able to adopt your foster baby if you happen to fall in love!
There is no one way to improve our mental health, but the love of an animal can fill our heart and be one part of your journey to living a joy-filled life.
And if you can’t have a pet, or do have one but still need some additional help, then Rx 4 Mental Health is here to help. We offer the most affordable, accessible and confidential virtual mental health therapy in the country. At just $39.95 per month, which includes your whole family 13+, your family members each have access to:
- 24 / 7 Acute help therapist
- 24 / 7 Doctor for medical needs
- On-Demand therapy with a Ph.D. Psychologist or Psychiatrist or Therapist
No contract and cancel anytime!
Always here for you!
1 American Psychiatric Association Poll