Throughout the history of humankind, pets have been companions and even became helpers for various purposes. Recent studies show that owning pets provides more to the mind that just the essential warmth of their companionship. Caring for these fellow sentient beings can work as therapy for human beings’ mental health.
Pets Can Have a Magical Effect to Owners
Pets have been known to change even the worst of days with their ability to create an atmosphere of care. Most people would attribute this to the actual act of caring for animals like children making sense of control and positivity.
But it has been found that pets, especially dogs, can turn their owner’s life akin to a therapeutic course in a facility (Robinson, 2020). While the same effect can be observed with other animals, dogs have been domesticated by humans for generations, which resulted in these canines to love and care for their owners unconditionally.
This ‘magic effect’ is being identified with alleviating anxiety and stress through the sense of security evoked by their presence in a household (Feldman, 2020). Forming daily routines by walking them, feeding them, and cleaning them could also be a solution to depression.
Living with Pets Can Boost the Mood
Raising pets can change the mood of a persona instantaneously (Robinson, 2020). Some ways that pets can uplift a person can include the following:
- Pets can make a person active physically. Most pets need exercise to be healthy. To make them physically active, owners tend to involve themselves, which makes them involved, too.
- Pets are good companions. In the busy, modern world, some do not live with anybody else. Having pets would mean there is someone to accompany that person, especially in challenging times.
- Pets can reduce anxiety. As mentioned, pets are sentient beings like their owners. They can sense a change in the mood and could offer their way of relief.
- Pets can provide stress relief. Running through a pet’s mane or cuddling could provide haptic feedback to a person that could release the tension building up.
- Pets can give meaning to a person’s life. Since owning a pet demands additional responsibility, all efforts would become a part of that person’s life purpose.
- Pets can give energy and vitality to their owners. Whether due to physical activity or just everyday actions, pets can enliven any room where they stay. This interaction could exude spirit from the pet owner.
They Can Improve Social Skills
One aspect of having pets that people often disregard is these animals’ ability to connect people and form social communities. Whether through conversations sparked in the park or connections made through pet clubs, the social interactions borne out of having pets are vital for mental health (Wilson, 2020).
Finding another person with the same interest would remove any notion of individuality and loneliness and could even pave the way for sharing problems. This act could even improve social skills like for those who have fears in public speaking or extreme shyness.
Pets can be Helpful in Reducing Depression
As stress continues to damage lives in the fast-paced era, owning pets have been comparable to saving the sanity of many owners around the world. Pet-owning workers who are high-risk in trauma conditions were found to create an attachment with their pets that readily converts into a fall-back mechanism when exposed to stressful situations (Lass-Hennemann, Schäfer, Sopp & Michael, 2020). Unfortunately, this observation does not heavily support the notion of the pets’ health benefits to these workers.
However, for the older population, owning a pet has been seen as an effective way of preventing suicide attempts from becoming successful (Young et al., 2020). Generally, it has been found that forming relationships with non-human creatures were instrumental in limiting the damage caused by self-harm. This newfound fact warrants additional studies to understand humans’ relationship with animals in the former’s time of distress.
Companion Pets can be helpful during the Pandemic
As the coronavirus diseases (COVID-19) ravaged the world and left millions of people locked down in their homes, pets’ presence was seen to help cope with the chaos (Vincent, Mamzer, Ng & Farkas, 2020). This coping was not only limited to the actual ownership of pets but would also cover the sharing of their photos, videos, and stories online.
Here are some other ways that pets could help owners in this COVID-19 pandemic:
- Pets allow owners to have something to occupy their minds even with their problems.
- Possible internalizing symptoms or stress felt by students in the ‘new normal’ could be eradicated (Barker et al., 2018).
- Families divided by some restrictions could find refuge in the presence of their pets.
- Having something to do at home could limit unnecessary traveling outside.
Owning a pet may just be a simple hobby or interest, but its lasting effects on mental health are documented and proven by science. The disconnection between people, gravitated by the pandemic, is a stressor in itself. Therefore, having a pet must not be viewed as a liability; it may become better in the years to come.
- Barker, S., Schubert, C., Barker, R., Kuo, S., Kendler, K., & Dick, D. (2018). The relationship between pet ownership, social support, and internalizing symptoms in students from the first to fourth year of college. Applied Developmental Science, 24(3), 279-293. doi: 10.1080/10888691.2018.1476148. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10888691.2018.1476148
- Feldman, S. (2020). Alleviating Anxiety, Stress and Depression with the Pet Effect. Retrieved 29 August 2020, from https://adaa.org/learn-from-us/from-the-experts/blog-posts/consumer/alleviating-anxiety-stress-and-depression-pet
- Lass-Hennemann, J., Schäfer, S., Sopp, M., & Michael, T. (2020). The Relationship between Dog Ownership, Psychopathological Symptoms and Health-Benefitting Factors in Occupations at Risk for Traumatization. International Journal Of Environmental Research And Public Health, 17(7), 2562. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17072562. https://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/17/7/2562
- Robinson, A. (2020). ‘Dogs have a magic effect’: how pets can improve our mental health. Retrieved 29 August 2020, from https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/mar/17/dogs-have-a-magic-effect-the-power-of-pets-on-our-mental-health
- Robinson, L. (2020). Mood-Boosting Power of Pets – HelpGuide.org. Retrieved 29 August 2020, from https://www.helpguide.org/articles/mental-health/mood-boosting-power-of-dogs.htm
- Vincent, A., Mamzer, H., Ng, Z., & Farkas, K. (2020). PEOPLE AND THEIR PETS IN THE TIMES OF THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC. Society Register, 4(3), 111-128. doi: 10.14746/sr.2020.4.3.06. https://pressto.amu.edu.pl/index.php/sr/article/view/22541
- Wilson, L. (2020). 7 Ways Pets Improve Your Mental Health. Retrieved 29 August 2020, from https://www.rtor.org/2020/03/25/7-ways-pets-improve-your-mental-health/
- Young, J., Bowen-Salter, H., O’Dwyer, L., Stevens, K., Nottle, C., & Baker, A. (2020). A Qualitative Analysis of Pets as Suicide Protection for Older People. Anthrozoös, 33(2), 191-205. doi: 10.1080/08927936.2020.1719759. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/08927936.2020.1719759
Disclaimer: The information on this website is not intended or recommended for patients or other lay persons or as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Patients must always consult a qualified health care professional regarding their diagnosis and treatment. Mental health conditions are complex, people differ widely in their conditions and responses, and interactions with other conditions and treatments are best evaluated by a physical examination and consultation with a qualified clinician.