How do pets improve mental health? Many of us already know the answer to this question: having a furry companion can provide an abundance of benefits for our emotional and mental well-being. But did you know that there is actual research backing up this claim? In this blog post, we will explore four proven ways in which pets can improve mental health and make a significant difference in the lives of their owners. So, whether you’re a dog lover, cat enthusiast, or enjoy the company of other pets, read on to discover the remarkable benefits that come with owning a furry friend.

They Provide Companionship

Man with his dog at the table.

Pets are known to provide their owners with a sense of companionship that is hard to come by elsewhere. Whether it’s a dog snuggled up on the couch with you or a cat purring on your lap, pets offer an unmatched form of emotional support and comfort that can greatly benefit your mental health. According to the American Psychiatric Association, 86% of pet owners report that their pets have a positive impact on their mental well-being. Specifically, 69% of these owners attribute this positive effect to the companionship provided by their pets (1). 

Having a pet around can make you feel less lonely and more connected to the world around you (2). This sense of companionship can be especially important for those who may feel isolated due to a mental health condition. When you have a pet, you always have someone to talk to, play with, and simply spend time with. This kind of companionship can make a huge difference in your overall well-being.

They Offer Unconditional Love

How do pets improve mental health? Dog looking at their owner.

Pets have the amazing ability to offer unconditional love, no matter what. They don’t judge or criticize, they simply offer love and support, which is a crucial component in improving mental health (3). Pets can also help people cope with difficult emotions, such as grief or depression, by offering a comforting presence.

Furthermore, pets offer a unique kind of love that is unmatched by any other relationship. They are always happy to see you, and will never hold a grudge or have expectations that are too high (4). This can help improve self-esteem and feelings of worthiness, as the pet-owner bond can be incredibly fulfilling.

They Can Help Reduce Anxiety And Stress

It’s no secret that owning a pet can bring joy and happiness into your life, but did you know that they can also help reduce anxiety and stress? Research shows that petting and cuddling with a pet can lower blood pressure and release oxytocin, a hormone that helps reduce stress levels (5). In addition, pets can also provide a calming presence and a distraction from negative thoughts and feelings.

Woman smiling with her cat.

For those with anxiety disorders, pets can provide a sense of security and comfort (6). Whether it’s a dog sleeping next to you at night or a cat sitting on your lap during a stressful situation, pets have a way of making you feel less alone and more at ease.

Additionally, according to a study published in the International Journal of Workplace Health Management, employees who brought their dogs to work reported lower stress levels throughout the day than those who did not have a pet (7). This highlights the important role that pets can play in reducing stress and improving mental health not only at home but also in the workplace.

They Can Provide A Sense Of Purpose

Pets can give their owners a sense of purpose and responsibility, which can be incredibly beneficial for mental health. Taking care of another living creature can give you a sense of accomplishment and help you feel like you have a reason to get out of bed in the morning. This can be especially helpful for people who may be feeling lost or struggling with their own mental health.

How do pets improve mental health? Woman hugging her dog.

Additionally, pets can also help individuals with mental health conditions feel more connected to the world around them. They provide a sense of responsibility and accountability, which can help individuals who struggle with feelings of detachment and isolation (8). For example, taking your dog for a walk or feeding your cat every day can give you a sense of routine and structure that can help give individuals the motivation they need to get moving each day.

Final thoughts: Pawsitive impact

Pets can play a significant role in improving mental health. Their companionship and unconditional love can help combat feelings of loneliness and isolation, while their ability to reduce anxiety and stress can have a positive impact on mental well-being. Pets can also provide a sense of purpose and responsibility, giving their owners a reason to get up in the morning and stay active. Studies have shown that simply petting a dog or cat can increase levels of oxytocin, the “feel-good” hormone, and reduce cortisol, the stress hormone. Ultimately, having a pet can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience that can contribute to better mental health and overall well-being.


Andrew Lennon is a naturopathic physician based in Windsor, California. He frequently recommends Research Verified products to his friends and clients and was delighted to be asked to write for the blog. His primary hobbies include golf, paddleboarding, and sampling the locally grown wine, but the fact of the matter is that his favorite pastime is anything that can be done with his wife, children, and their pet dog, Angelica.

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