How Owning A Pet Can Boost Your Physical And Mental Health

Mental health benefits of pet ownership

Disclaimer: This post was developed via a partnership with BetterHelp.

As humans, connection and companionship can be crucial to our well-being. While many people understand the importance of spending time with friends and family members, others may not recognize the potential of pets to provide similar benefits. 

Around two-thirds of Americans own a pet, making it a point to include them as invaluable members of their families. Getting a pet can be fun and exciting, but pet ownership extends beyond trips to the dog park and getting pup cups at Starbucks. Science has shown that owning a pet can have a profound impact on our physical and mental well-being, even extending our life expectancy. 

Keep reading to learn more about the potential benefits of pet ownership on physical and mental wellness and explore the questions you may want to ask before getting a new companion yourself. 

The Health Benefits Of Pet Ownership

Getting a pet can improve your physical and mental health in the following ways:

  • Increased opportunities for exercise: Pets often need to be taken outside to use the restroom or to get exercise. This can encourage pet owners to get off the couch and venture outside to spend some time with their pets and give them what they need. 


  • Alleviation of symptoms of mental disorders: Research has found that simply engaging with a pet can decrease levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) and boost the amount of oxytocin (the feel-good hormone) in the body. This can enhance pet owners’ moods and lead to fewer symptoms of mental disorders like depression. Pets can even be used in a type of therapy known as animal-assisted therapy to help their owners cope with trauma and other life stressors. You can read more about this kind of therapy by visiting:


  • Reduced stress: After a long day, few things are better than coming home to a pet who can offer a much-needed break from the stressors of life. Throwing the ball in the backyard with your dog or taking a long trail ride with your horse can help you forget your worries and focus on something you love. 


  • Fewer feelings of loneliness: Pets tend to be loyal and offer unconditional love, which can keep lonely feelings at bay. Even when there aren’t people around to provide emotional support, pets can make you laugh, entertain you, or cuddle up next to you. 


  • Greater sense of purpose: Given that pets are entirely dependent on you to take care of them, pet ownership can give you a sense of purpose. Even when it feels difficult to care for yourself, knowing that your pet can’t survive without you can be a huge motivator to show up for them. 


  • Improved social skills and confidence: Owning a pet can connect you with other people in a multitude of ways, improving your social life and even staving off feelings of social anxiety. You might meet friends at the dog park, connect with other owners at a training class, or have people come up to you because they want to say hello to your pet. These opportunities can help you feel more confident engaging with other people by allowing you to work on your social skills.

Pets can be wonderful additions to life, but they aren’t always the right fit for everyone’s lifestyle and needs. Below, we’ll explore some reasons why pet ownership might not be ideal for some individuals. 

Thinking About Getting A Pet?

If you’re considering adding a new pet to your life, it’s crucial to ask yourself some important questions before rushing into the decision, including:

  • Can your schedule accommodate a pet? Pets take a lot of time and energy, especially when they’re young. If you travel frequently and are hardly home, having a pet may not be practical or fair to an animal. 


  • Are you financially fit to own a pet? Pets can be expensive, with some species and breeds costing thousands of dollars. You’ll also need to pay any vet bills, buy food for them regularly, and purchase other supplies as needed. 


  • Are the members of your household okay with having a pet? Once you bring a pet home, it becomes a permanent part of your family. Thus, it’s vital to ensure everyone in your household is on board with the decision and no one is allergic. 

Getting a pet is a big decision—one that must be weighed carefully. When you commit to a pet, you are accepting it and everything that comes with it for its lifetime. This means that whether you move, get married, start a family, or open a business, the impact on your pet must be considered. While you may see your pet as a big part of your life, to them, you are their entire life and reason for existing. So, while you’re reaping the benefits of pet ownership, remember that your pets deserve all the love and care you can offer.