By Amanda Williamson
Marketing Director, Nevada Humane Society
Imagine checking your prescription to see that, instead of medication, the paper said: “Lots of dog kisses and the purring sound of a cat. Enjoy twice daily. Refill as necessary.”
Surprisingly, science says this shouldn’t shock you.
More than 97 percent of doctors believe there are health benefits to owning a pet, according to habri, the Human Animal Bond Research Institute. Researchers are so certain they’ve even named the slew of improvements interacting with animals can give.
Enter “the Pet Effect.”
Guard Against Depression
“Petey and PJ put a smile on my face every day when I get home as they run, tails wagging, to snuggle and slather me in kisses,” said Kristen Saibini, a Nevada Humane Society volunteer and adopter. “It’s an instant mood booster, for sure.”
How exactly does this work?
When we pet our animals, the chemical in our brain tied to happiness increases — and as a result, our mental health improves.
After all, unconditional love and support goes a long way to ease worry, distress and loneliness.
Kristen knows that all too well.
Her wife, Katelyn Floyd, works in the military. When Katelyn is away, Kristen says it helps to have her furbabies in the home, especially since nothing beats the joy of a dog’s wagging tail and a cat’s purr.
But, there’s more to it than that.
Habri notes pets provide a sense of purpose to their owner’s lives, which is something we hear often from our team members and volunteers.
“In all my struggles with mental health, the reminder that I am the one person my animals truly rely on is what kept me here and kept me strong,” said Pryce Scott, TNR Coordinator with Nevada Humane Society. “By intimately knowing that experience, we are able to see the life-saving bond between humans and animals — and know that we help save more lives than our adoption statistics can possibly count.”
Your pets provide an outlet where you can release bottled emotions while knowing they will provide a constant shoulder and a non-judgmental ear.
Goodbye to Anxiety
It is no mystery exercise can help reduce feelings of stress, and studies show dog owners are more likely to meet daily exercise goals.
Michigan State University found dog owners are 34 percent more likely to fit in 150 minutes of walking per week than non-dog owners, and a similar study by the University of Missouri saw a 28 percent increase in walking speed when walking with a four-legged buddy instead of a human buddy.
Exercise produces endorphins in the brain, which act as natural painkillers and also improves your ability to sleep. Both, in turn, decrease stress.
Additionally, exercising your dog often leads to conversations with other dog owners, helping to create connections and friendships. People who have more social relationships tend to be mentally healthier.
Reducing anxiety isn’t just for the dogs.
Just hearing the sound of a cat’s purr can reduce stress responses in humans, says Bonney Brown, the president of Humane Network.
Pets of all varieties provide perks, no matter our age, which could explain why more than 60 percent of households in the United States already have one. Pets lower stress, connect you to a community, provide a constant exercise buddy and offer a source of comfort.
That explains why the University Of Michigan School of Public Health found that 88 percent of people surveyed believed the benefits of pet ownership included helping them to enjoy life.
After all, with dog and cat by our sides, we truly learn to live in the moment.