Can Owning a Pet Help with Stress and Anxiety?

| CJ Silvasi

Pets bring a joy and fun into our lives, but did you know they can also help you live longer? Studies show that pet owners are not only happier, but that pets can help reduce stress and even the risk of heart disease.

Person laying with a cat

The modern human-animal bond is unique, but humans have cared for and domesticated animals for millennia. Historically, the domestication of animals led to the foundations of modern civilization as nomadic humans began to settle and live an agricultural lifestyle. Domesticated animals reduced the need to travel to hunt. So, when did domestication of animals’ transition from basic needs to the emotional bonds we recognize today?

The History of Keeping Animals as Pets

Initially, animals were domesticated with a specific purpose. Goats and sheep were first, and they provided warmth with their wool and hides and food from milk and meat. Other animals soon followed, and wolves were domesticated into the dog breeds we know today. Originally bred with certain hunting traits in mind, most dogs were originally working animals to protect and provide food for their human companions.

The bond between dogs and humans was originally a mutually beneficial partnership for food and safety. It was a natural development of both species needing support in the wild. However, as human civilization grew and became more urban, the need for hunting dogs for survival began to diminish. But, by that time, humans looked upon dogs as a companion, not simply a means of survival.

The Health Benefits of Pet Ownership

Woman hiking with a dog at a waterfall

In the United States, most pets are kept for the sake of companionship rather than as working animals. However, studies show that the relationship is still mutually beneficial for both people and animals. Pets can relieve stress and noticeably lower their human’s blood pressure. Bayer, a life sciences and pharmaceutical company has discovered that dog owners are 15% less likely to die from heart disease than their non-pet-owning counterparts.

Bayer postulates that because animals provide companionship, so their humans aren’t as lonely. Companion animals help combat heart disease, dementia, and depression by reducing loneliness which can worsen symptoms of these diseases. Positive physical and emotional health effects have been seen in people of all ages from pet ownership.

Why Your Pet Helps You Feel Better

The emotional benefits of pet ownership have been proven scientifically. Pet owners have a lower level of the stress hormone cortisol, so not only are they more likely to live longer, but pet owners experience less stress and are generally happier.

Pet Snuggles Make You Happy

Simply put: when you pet or cuddle your furry companion, you are happier. Similarly, so is your pet. Studies have confirmed that both humans and their animals experience an increase in oxytocin which is a hormone that makes you feel happy.

This is likely the root of the emotional bond we feel with our pets, but it’s nice to know they feel the same way when spending time with us. So, the next time your pet wants you to cuddle, take the time to do it. Work it into your self-care routine for a happier life.

Sensory therapy has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety. So, the texture of your pet’s fur, the action of taking them for a needed walk, or even just the pressure and warmth of their body next to yours can have an immediate calming effect on the body. Pet ownership is a great way to reduce anxiety and provide comfort and perspective when you are overwhelmed.

People with Pets Feel Less Lonely

Man sitting on sofa with white dog

At some point in our lives, we all experience depression or moments of intense sadness. These moments can worsen when we feel lonely, and loneliness can exacerbate physical illness as well. Major life changes can cause loneliness as well, so having a pet helps combat lonely feelings and eases the stress of those changes.

The companionship of an animal can’t be fully measured, but we do know that having someone to talk to, even if they don’t reply can be beneficial to a person’s mental health. Talking out your problems and stressors helps people process complex emotions. This can lead to healing and helps people process difficult feelings. For someone without a trusted partner, pets fill that role.

Photo of a woman holding her dog

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Caring for Pets Creates Structure in Our Lives

Pet owners know that having a pet means having a routine. You are solely responsible for another life that is wholly dependent on you for survival. When you have a pet, you need to get out of bed to care for them. You have someone waiting on you to come home after work, and they are often happy to greet you as you walk in.

Regular routines not only make animals comfortable in their environments, but also relieve stress in humans. By having steady, predictable events each day or week, we have something to look forward to habits that allow our minds to relax and not stress over the unknown.

Woman hugging small brown and white dog

Don’t let stress get the best of you and your pet. The financial impact of responsible pet ownership can feel overwhelming at times. Let AKC Pet Insurance relieve some of that stress. Our Accident and Illness plan can help cover the costs of expensive or unexpected medical needs for your pets. Customize your quote today with optional add-ons like Veterinary Exam and Wellness coverage so you can rest easy knowing your pet is covered with AKC Pet Insurance.

People who already own pets know they enrich our lives with joy and fun. Science is there to back up those thoughts with proof that we are indeed happier and healthier with pets in our lives. So, take some time to say thank you to the pets that make your life better with some snuggles and quality time. You’ll both feel better for it.

Photo of a woman holding her dog

Every Dog and Cat Deserves the Pet Insurance of Champions

Get prize-winning care for your pets.

CJ Silvasi

CJ has always wanted to be a writer. She even threatened to drop out after her first day of kindergarten when they weren’t immediately going to teach her to read and write. Fortunately, she stayed in school, earned her degree in Creative Writing from Christopher Newport University, and now gets to live her best life with her husband, 3 Japanese Chins, and cat writing for AKC Pet Insurance.


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