Pets Are Popular
There is a good chance you have a pet. About a 70 percent chance, as a matter of fact.
According to the American Pet Products Association, pet ownership has risen from 56 percent in 1988 to 70 percent in 2020—a 14 percent increase. Dogs are the most popular pets, while cats and fish occupy the second and third spots, respectively. But of course, there are plenty of other animals–from the furry to the feathered to the scaly–they are all valued members of many a household.
If you are among the majority of Americans who have a pet of some kind, we have good news: having an animal companion can provide a boost to your overall mental well-being. (and your physical well-being, too, if the animal is the sort that needs a daily walk or two). So you have already made a great decision by having a pet to love and care for—and who loves you right back, unconditionally.
Considering the Perks of a Pet
But what if you are among the 30 percent of American households that are without a pet? How seriously should you consider getting one for the sake of your mental health?
That’s a fair question, and it is hard to give a precise answer. But we can say this with confidence: You should at least think about welcoming an animal into your home because the potential mental health benefits are significant.
A Doggone Disclaimer
Before we go any further, we want to acknowledge that there may be a range of reasons you may not want to acquire a pet. You may have allergies. You may be afraid of animals. You may worry that you don’t have the time or money to properly care for the pet. You may live in a place that does not allow animals. You might simply dislike animals. Any and all of those reasons are worth considering before taking in a pet. You don’t want your animal companion to cause more stress in your life!
But if your circumstances and inclinations permit a pet, there are real mental health benefits to be gained.
Barking About the Benefits of Pets
It has been well established that playing with or petting a pet can help you feel less stressed and more relaxed. Interacting with a pet lowers the level of cortisol in your brain while raising the level of oxytocin in the brain, which in turn lowers anxiety and heightens a sense of well-being. In addition, pets are the most steadfast of companions (despite the reputation for standoffishness that clings to cats), which means they help ward off feelings of boredom and loneliness–both of which can negatively affect your mental health.
As we noted above, pets can also provide a boost to your physical health, especially if they are the sort of furry friend that benefits from getting outside to walk and run and play. Those walks and romps and games are good for your pet, and they are good for you, too–especially since exercise supports your mental health as well as your physical health.
You Can Volunteer Before You Commit
Maybe you are still on the fence about bringing an animal into your home, but are intrigued by the possible mental health benefits. If so, we have good news.
Volunteering at an animal shelter can provide many of the same benefits of having a pet at home–and you can be instrumental in connecting animals with their new forever homes. Making a difference in the lives of the animals and of the people who take them home can be deeply satisfying. That feeling of doing meaningful work supports good mental health.
And if you do eventually decide you are ready to take home a pet of your own, you will have experience caring for animals that will serve you well. Plus, you will know right where to find the perfect companion for you.
Don’t Go Barking Up the Wrong Tree. Let Us Help.
If you are struggling with a mental health disorder, Peak View Behavioral Health can help. Whether you are dealing with one of the various kinds of depression, anxiety or panic disorders, trauma-based issues, or something else, we have the expertise and experience to help.
Equally importantly, we are committed to a compassionate, personalized approach to mental health care. At Peak View, we listen intently because we know every individual faces unique challenges and deserves a treatment program designed specifically for them.