The science of why pets make us happy

pets make us happy

I am a big pet lover and know first-hand that like eating your greens and getting a good night’s sleep, owning a fuzzy pup or cute kitten can be great for both body and mind! The bottom line is pets make us happy.

Many studies have shown that a pet can do wonders for your physical and mental health, something I know to be true from our own fu baby. In fact, the presence of a pet in the home can reduce loneliness, increase social interaction and fulfil our human need for affection. 

Having a pet can also promote mindfulness and relaxation, and can provide a good opportunity to get into shape, which might help lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. And what better way to do it all than play with your pet’s favourite toy and watch them zip around!

Why pets make us happy: The science behind the bond

Did you know spending time with pets affects hormone levels in a way that helps us feel calmer, happier and even help lower our blood pressure? 

Simply petting a pup or giving a cat loving scratches can result in lower levels of cortisol, the main stress hormone found in the body. This can also boost oxytocin, otherwise known as the ‘love’ hormone, which is released in response to positive physical contact (and is the same hormone that helps mums bond with their newborn bubs!). So it’s no wonder service cats and dogs are often brought into schools, hospitals and aged care homes to provide companionship, love and to ease anxiety and stress. 

The health benefits of pet ownership

A playful pooch or frisky feline can provide a workout all in itself! Having a pet can be a great incentive for going out more, getting into shape, and can bring with it a slew of other benefits—like socialising and making new friends.  

Not only does walking the dog or chasing the cat around lower cholesterol and unhealthy fats in the blood, it helps us get fitter and enjoy more of the great outdoors—which is great for our mental health, too.

The power of companionship

You can’t get a much stronger bond than that of people and their pets, with some considering their pesky pooch or frisky feline (or scaly lizard… the list goes on!) to be their best friend or even a member of the family. 

This strong sense of companionship can result in many long-term social and health benefits for pet owners. One survey concluded pets gave participants a sense of purpose, promoted a more optimistic outlook and could be a calming influence in their lives.  

Your furry BFF can also help you make human BFFs, helping to combat loneliness and depression. Pet owners are more likely to get to know people in their neighbourhood over non-pet owners, while those who walk their dogs are more likely to befriend someone through a pet-related connection. So your furry friends are not only there to enhance your life, but also your social circle!

Stress relief through pets

There’s no better feeling than seeing your pup’s waggy tail at the door after a hard day’s work, or having your purring kitty nestled in your lap when you’re feeling a little down and out. Our pets have an uncanny ability to pick up on our emotions during stressful times, and can be the ultimate mood booster when we’re feeling blue.  

So how do they relieve our stress? Just the simple act of cuddling up with our pets can decrease levels of the stress hormone (cortisol) and lower our blood pressure. Pets make us happy by regulating our moods by elevating happy hormones—like serotonin and dopamine—helping us to relax.  

One study found those growing up with a pet dog had lower levels of childhood anxiety, while another concluded that by providing unconditional support, pets could offer more stability in people’s lives, help manage stress and allow room to emotionally deal with difficult situations.

Comfort and support

Is there anything more comforting than a nose nuzzle or a happy lick of the face from our furry friends? 

When we’re feeling low and need a hug, a pet can provide us with an incredible amount of comfort and support. Pets make us happy through their unconditional love, giving us their undivided attention and letting us confide in them without fear of rejection or judgement. Caring for a pet can even give us a purpose to get out of bed in the morning, help us to form healthier habits and provide more structure in our lives. 

Taking care of a pet is a big commitment, having to feed them, groom them, clean up after them and provide them with exercise. But the joy and fulfilment we get in return is immeasurable, providing us with unconditional love, support and happy memories to last a lifetime.  

From maintaining a healthier lifestyle to easing stress to putting a smile on your face, having a pet can enrich your life in so many ways and can establish a bond like no other – science says so and one thing every pet owner knows for sure is that pets make us happy!

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