One business that got a tremendous unpredicted boost during the COVID-19 pandemic was the pet adoption business. Sales for dogs and cats have soared these past several months. People are trying to fill emotional voids with pet companionship.

With socialization opportunities limited these days, many people are looking for something to bring joy to their lives. Pets come with some powerful health and mood-boosting benefits for young and old alike.   

Science Proves It

Studies have demonstrated that caring for an animal can help lower stress levels, relieve depression and anxiety, and even improve your heart health. The human-animal bond can trigger a decrease in cortisol, a stress hormone. Playing with your pet can elevate levels of serotonin (“happy hormone”) and dopamine (neurotransmitter of emotional responses), which calm and relax pet owners.

A relationship with a pet can also make both humans and animals mutually feel good. Petting an animal, for instance, can release what is referred to as the “love hormone” oxytocin.  This hormone and neurotransmitter exist in all mammals. It is typically linked to warm and fuzzy relationship-building feelings and floods a mother with love when she sees her baby.  

Pet owners are shown to have lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels, which are indicators of heart disease, compared to people without pets.  Heart attack patients with pets also survive longer than those without.

Other Benefits of Pet Therapy

Caring for a pet can help you make healthy lifestyle changes too. If you own a dog, you are far more likely to meet your daily exercise requirements by taking your canine for walks, hikes, or runs.  Since many pets require a regular exercise and feeding schedule, their owners benefit from adding structure and routine to their day.  

Pets can help improve your social life. Dog owners frequently talk with each other during walks or at a dog park. You can also meet others in pet stores, training classes, and clubs. Since maintaining a social network as you get older may be more difficult because of retirement, illness, death, and possibly relocation of friends and family, dogs and cats can make great companions and even spark conversations to meet new people.

Having the unconditional love of a pet can make a child feel important as well and help them develop a positive self-image.  Children who are emotionally attached to their pets are reported to be better able to build relationships with other people. Pet ownership can also teach kids about responsibility, compassion, and empathy. 

Find Meaning and Joy

The health benefits of pets are not limited to just cats and dogs.  Rabbits, birds, fish, horses, and even snakes and lizards can bring a source of comfort and help boost your morale, optimism, and sense of self-worth. 

You can also boost your vitality or energy level by interacting with your pets. Pets can encourage playfulness and laughter too. Research supports the claim that laughter is often the best medicine for all of us, especially living during a pandemic.