The bond between animals and humans is incredible. The mutually beneficial relationship between people and animals positively impacts the health and well-being of both. Any pet owner will tell you that living with a pet comes with unconditional love, companionship, and so many other benefits. Many people consider their pets to be a member of their family and report improved mental health due to the pet being a part of their lives.
Pets have evolved to become extremely aware of our behavior and emotions. For example, dogs are able to understand many of the words we use, but are even better at interpreting our body language, tone of voice, and gestures. Dogs will look into your eyes to gauge your emotional state and try to understand what you are thinking and feeling.
Pets, especially dogs and cats, can reduce depression, anxiety, stress, and fulfill the basic human need for touch. Petting, hugging, or touching a pet can rapidly calm and soothe you when you are anxious or stressed. A pet does not necessarily have to be a dog or a cat, even watching fish in an aquarium can be calming, help reduce muscle tension, and lower your pulse rate. Having a pet can help your mental and physical health by:
- Increasing exercise. Studies have shown that dog owners are far more likely to meet their daily exercise requirements and keeps the dog fit and healthy as well. Exercise is also great for your mental health, so it is a win-win all around.
- Providing companionship. Isolation and loneliness can trigger symptoms of depression. Caring for an animal can give you a sense of purpose and make you feel needed and wanted and help take the focus away from your problems.
- Helping you meet new people. Pets, especially dogs, can be great for socialization for their owners. Dog owners frequently stop and talk to each other on walks, at training classes, or at the dog park.
- Adding structure and routine to your day. Many pets require regular feeding and exercise. Having a consistent routine keeps you and your pet calm and balanced.
- Providing sensory stress relief. Movement and touch are two healthy ways to manage stress quickly. Petting a dog, cat, or other animal can lower blood pressure and help you quickly feel calmer and less stressed. Studies around pets and mental health show that petting and playing with animals reduces stress-related hormones. These benefits can occur after just five minutes of interacting with a pet.
- Being in the present moment. Pets live in the moment and do not worry about what happened yesterday or worry about what might happen tomorrow. As a result, pets can help people become more mindful and focus on the present.
While these are just a few benefits of having a pet, there
are several studies on how pets and humans are great for each other and can
benefit each other in so many ways. Our furry friends are there for us no
matter what and show us the true meaning of unconditional love and how to love
Tiffany Dahir, Assistant Director for The Kim Foundation
Tiffany Dahir is the Assistant Director of The Kim Foundation. She received her Master’s Degree in Organizational Performance in 2018 and her Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing Management in 2013, both from Bellevue University. She has worked for The Kim Foundation since January 2020. Her previous experience through her work and volunteering includes marketing, event planning, fundraising, I.T., and operations. Tiffany’s role at The Kim Foundation includes daily office operations, marketing, coordinating event logistics and employee relations.