How Do Pets Help My Mental Health?
What’s better than walking in the door and seeing that excited four-legged dance? Your pet is so happy to see you and their overjoyed greeting can really make your day. But pets do more than just elevate our moods. They can have a real positive impact on our mental and physical health. Here’s how.
It can be a chore to get out of bed some days, especially if you’re not a morning person. Maybe you’re tired after staying up too late or feeling anxious about the day ahead. If you have a pet, there’s only so long you can hide under the covers. That furry face will be right there poking you with their cold nose to remind you that they’re hungry and ready for breakfast. And who can resist those adoring eyes saying, “Get up and enjoy the day!”
Daily Stress Relief
Pets are there for us the minute we walk in the door. Their happy greetings can be enough to make your shoulders drop down from your ears and start to melt the stress away.
Research has also shown that petting our four-legged friends results in a release of calming hormones. And that’s not all—pets are caring and attentive listeners, so you can tell them anything. Talk out an issue or just vent about your day. Don’t worry—they won’t share your secrets with anyone.
The Great Outdoors
Pets give us a great reason to enjoy more time outside. If you have a dog, you’ll need to go for walks, so you’ll be soaking up the sun and boosting your levels of Vitamin D, which can help prevent depression. Having a dog can also encourage you to be adventurous—to discover and explore new places like parks and hiking trails.
Don’t forget to put sunscreen on your pet too. Use a pet-safe brand and dab it on areas that might burn, like their noses and bellies.
While cats should be kept inside to help keep them safe from injuries and illnesses, you can enjoy time with your feline outside on a screened-in porch if you have one. Make sure the door and screens are secure, so they can’t get out accidentally. You can also lay down next to your cat as they bask in the sunlight to enjoy a few minutes of relaxation.
A Meaningful Purpose
What is the meaning of life? If you have a pet, part of your meaning is to take great care of that sweet beast. Feeling like your life has a purpose can help you avoid or lessen feelings of anxiety and depression.
While pets need us to fulfill their day-to-day needs, there’s also a bigger picture here. You can congratulate yourself for keeping your pet happy and healthy throughout your years together.
Sticking to a routine is important to our mental health, and pets certainly help us do just that. Most pets thrive on a regular schedule, for instance, being fed, going for walks, getting exercise, or enjoying snuggles around the same time each day. This can help give us a calming sense of structure that feels good even when other parts of our lives seem out of our control.
Pets encourage us to interact with others, which is important to our mental health.
When you have a dog, you have a reason to get out and engage with the world. Dogs are fabulous ice-breakers, especially if you have a social butterfly who needs to stop and say hi to everyone you see along your walks.
Cats help here too. A friendly feline who comes out to rub up against a new friend can be a great way to get the conversation going.
It’s hard to feel down and unworthy of love when your pet’s adoring eyes are locked on you. Our pets love us unconditionally, which can help improve our self-esteem and wash away any negative feelings about ourselves. They’re amazing stress reducers who help us stay in the moment rather than riding off on a wave of thoughts. They also make us laugh with all kinds of silly antics, like jumping around with a favorite toy or “singing” along to the radio.
Caring for Your Pet’s Mental Health
Our pets do so much to help our mental health. What can we do to help theirs? Quite a lot, actually.
Know Your Pet
By getting to know your pet’s personality, you can help make sure you’re fulfilling their needs as best you can. So, for instance, if your pet likes their alone time, be sure to set up a quiet place where they can retreat when they need some solitude. If your pet is a social butterfly, be sure to give them plenty of opportunities to engage with others.
Understanding your pet’s temperament can also help you avoid putting your pet in situations that might make them stressed out—or at least take steps to reduce their discomfort. For example, if your pet gets anxious meeting new people, make those introductions gradually in a calm setting.
Take Great Care of Them
Of course, taking excellent care of your pet is essential. Pets need a healthy diet, plenty of exercise, and lots of love and attention to help keep them physically and mentally healthy. In addition, you should offer them interactive toys or puzzle-filled treats to entertain them. This helps avoid boredom and frustration, which can cause bad behaviors, like chewing or scratching up the carpet.
Our pet insurance covers behavioral conditions, so you can enjoy financial support if your pet needs treatment for these issues.
Get Help When Needed
Pets can suffer from mental issues, such as depression or anxiety. Signs of depression or anxiety can include:
- Restlessness and an inability to sleep
- Loss of appetite, which can lead to weight loss
- Sleeping more than usual
- Pacing, spinning, excessive licking, or other compulsive behaviors
- Changes in personality such as increased clinginess or irritability
If you notice these symptoms, don’t hesitate to seek advice from your veterinarian or a behavioral specialist. While you might think it will pass or that there’s nothing that can be done to help, you may be wrong. Your veterinarian can make sure no underlying health issues are bothering your pet and recommend treatments such as behavioral therapy or medication. Even small lifestyle changes, such as exercising more often, can sometimes make a difference.
Of course, the best way to help your pet’s mental health is to love, love, love them! And enjoy all the love they give back with every fiber of your being.