Pets parents know how much joy their companionship brings, but did you know having a furry friend is scientifically proven to boost your mental health? Research has shown that pet owners are less likely to suffer from depression than those without pets. Studies also suggest that playing with your pet can make you feel calmer because the act elevates levels of serotonin and dopamine.
The truth is they are just as good for our mental health as we are for their physical health.
Jessica Kirk, who graduated in 2006 from North Dakota State University with her bachelor’s degree in animal science and received her doctorate of veterinary medicine from the University of Minnesota-St. Paul in 2011, helps explain the science behind the positive effects pets have on mental health.
“There are a plethora of studies that have been conducted reporting the positive effects that our pets have on mental health and wellness,” said Kirk, who lives outside of Atlanta with her two Boston Terriers, Pipsqueak and Thelma, and her horse, Scuba. “These studies show that pets may help decrease stress, anxiety and/or depression in human populations. Many pet owners, myself included, would agree that their pets have decreased their stress or anxiety in their lives.”
Increases Feelings of Being Wanted and Needed
“It’s important for us to feel important,” Kirk said. “Your pet needs you to feed them, clean up after them and give them attention. You are wanted and needed by someone—someone who likely has fur, scales, feathers or even hooves.”
“If you are a pet owner and feeling lonely, you already know that one of the best feelings is coming home to your pet—their constant companionship is unconditional,” she said. “You have a buddy to talk to, who will listen to you, who can be your walking partner, they can even be your wing-man at social gatherings.”
“Pets are also very good at keeping schedules,” Kirk said. “For those of us lacking the drive to keep up a schedule, your pet may very well likely let you know when it’s time to play, time to eat dinner, time for bed or time to start your day.”
Give us Unconditional Love
“I think that most pet owners will agree that pets give us unconditional love,” Kirk said. “They love us when we don’t deserve it, when we don’t expect it and even when we don’t think we need it. Our pets know us so well and we should be so thankful for all the love and support that they give us in our daily lives.”
What to learn more? Kirk currently teaches veterinary medicine courses, and you can ask her all your pet-related questions at www.vetexplainspets.com.