By Christine DeSantis
October 10, 2021
After a long day, there’s nothing better than coming home to your loving fur family. The stress of daily life can make us appreciate our pets just that much more. But how often do you think of all the ways that your pets have improved the way you live? Or how they have made a positive change in how you think? Today is World Mental Health Day, so let’s take this opportunity to reflect on the incredible impact that our pets can have on our mental wellbeing.
According to mentalhealth.org.uk, pets can aid us in our battles against mental health in a wide variety of ways. They lower our anxiety levels through companionship, encourage a healthy exercise routine, and even enhance our self-assurance. Pets are natural listeners who won’t impose unwanted opinions or discernment upon you. In addition to these benefits, they also provide us with a reason to get out of the house and meet other people. They give us a general structure to our day, as well.
I know from my own experience that all of this is true. My dog has not only served as a loyal shoulder to shed a few tears on, but he’s also been the reason that I decided to get out of bed on those mornings when all I wanted to do was throw my hands up and say, “I’m done with life.” When I look into his loyal eyes, I get this boost of determination and self-confidence to take action. He reminds me that someone is depending on me for food, shelter, and love; but he also shares his whole heart with me in return.
Leroy & Christine (@leroythelongboy)
I’m not alone in my experiences, either. I reached out to other pet parents to hear their personal stories regarding the impact of pets on their mental health. And just as the research described, pets can have a profound positive affect on our minds.
Gemma, the owner of a grey tabby cat in Australia, began her pet journey just before lockdown in 2020. “We got Meru through the RSPCA,” she explained. “By the time the paperwork went through, they had closed to visitors, so we met him by video. He was meowing like crazy, hence the username @meru_miaows.”
Meru meowed his way into Gemma’s heart throughout the pandemic, easing some of the emotional and mental chaos that came with it. He was her company in an otherwise isolated world. Their bond grew so strong that nine months later, she adopted her second pet: Ossa, a female lynx point cat. This came as no surprise though, because Gemma is a believer in the positive impact of pets on mental health.
“They give us structure in our daily routine and someone else to think about,” she described. “Having a pet makes me more appreciative of home life and I actually find myself wanting to stay home and be with them. I guess the feeling is more looking forward to being at home, rather than feeling sorry if I don’t have plans to be out!"
Meru & Gemma (@merymiaows)
Gemma’s story makes it simple to understand how grounding our pets can be, especially during uncertain times. They can be comforting to practically anyone in their time of need, even strangers! That’s why pets can make such wonderful therapy partners. To get a better understanding of the benefits of pet therapy, I asked U.S. dog owner Hannah to share her story about her therapy poodle, Olive.
“I focused on training her to be a therapy dog and she was working by September 2013,” she revealed. “That year I was working in a small special education school and that quickly became Olive’s first consistent job. She would sit in the classrooms, therapy spaces, and the ‘quiet room’ with the children, providing more comfort and regulation than I ever could as a trained professional.”
Olive & Hannah (@olive_thetherapydog)
Hannah said that Olive has a way of calming the children that is fit for a natural-born healer.“ Kids would be screaming and crying, so Olive would trot over and lay with them in their moments of pain, lick their faces and snuggle up close,” she detailed. “She knows when someone needs her love. Over eight years later, Olive continues to be my daily support and comfort, and she is also still working to provide that same support and comfort to others across the age spectrum.”
Olive & Hannah (@olive_thetherapydog)
Whether trained for therapy or not, pets everywhere continue to ease our pain. Sometimes, they can make us feel better without even trying! Saz and Remy know all about that.
“These girls bring me so much love and joy,” shared Kris, U.S. pet parent to the two British shorthair cats. “The way they look at me and purr me to sleep are just little ways they show their love. I feel so happy when I’m with them.”
Saz & Kris (@sazandremy)
Saz & Remy (@sazandremy)
Saz and Remy have not only made a positive shift in her emotional health, but they’ve also given Kris a new perspective and approach to her life.
“I’m naturally high-energy and I do too many things at once, so I try to take a lesson from them to take more naps and do a little less. They reinforce the idea to enjoy every second of life, but also to relax.”
That’s some solid advice from two shorthair cats. And since it’s World Mental Health Day, what better time to follow their example than now? In honor of the occasion, take a few moments today to reflect on all the little ways that your pets have helped your mental health. Chances are, you owe them a ‘thank you’ (and a treat, too)!
Thank you to the following sources:
Christine DeSantis is a Digital Media Specialist with a B.S. in Public Relations focusing on Multimedia Production. Her fond affection for pets has inspired her to pursue a career in pet-niche marketing. Through her work as a content creator, manager, and copywriter, she has used unique professional opportunities to express her love for animals. When she's not taking photos or spending time with her miniature dachshund, Leroy, you can usually find her searching the streets of Austin, Texas for the best tacos in town!