Fur Babies and Finals: The Surprising Benefits of Having a Pet

Pets and their owners share a special bond. In Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World’s Worst Dog, author John Grogan learns that adopting a yellow Labrador retriever puppy is a rambunctious but ultimately rewarding undertaking; the book resonated with audiences and was made into a successful film.

The movie Hachi: A Dog’s Tale is based on the true story of a dog who would walk himself to the train station every night at 5 p.m. to greet his owner as he arrived home from work. After his owner suffered a fatal brain hemorrhage and failed to take the train home, Hachi spent the next nine years at the station, waiting for him to return.

Hollywood portrayals of the pet-human bond are often beautiful, but experiencing that type of unconditional love firsthand is infinitely better. Below are just a few of the ways in which owning a pet can improve your life.

dog snuggling in bed

You’re Less Likely to Suffer from Anxiety, Depression, and Stress If You Have a Pet

Researchers have found that the bond between pets and their owners can make a profound difference in their owners’ mental health. For example, Psychology Today shares that pet owners have lower rates of depression and suffer from fewer symptoms of depression compared with people without pets at home. In another study, 80% of respondents said they felt less lonely within a month of getting a dog.

The unconditional love of a pet can also reduce stress. A study published by Science Magazine found that petting or playing with a pet can lead to a one- to three-hour increase in the brain chemicals responsible for happiness and a one- to three-hour reduction of cortisol, a stress hormone.

They Help You Socialize

A commonly overlooked benefit of having a pet is the chance it provides you to meet and connect with other animal lovers. According to Psychology Today, in a study of people with wheelchairs, those who had a dog had more conversations with passersby than those who didn’t have a dog.

Canine owners are likely to agree the finding makes sense. If you own a dog, you can probably recall times when you struck up conversations with other pet owners at a dog park, a dog beach, or the dog groomer’s.

Cat and other animal owners aren’t left out of the equation. Many have shared stories about their fur babies with classmates, coworkers, or people they’ve seen browsing the cat-toy section at the local pet store.

They Get You Moving

A 2019 study by Lintbells, a UK-based pet supplement company, found that the average dog owner walks roughly 17 miles a week with their pet. Yet walking your dog isn’t the only way that Fido helps you get exercise. Playing fetch, tossing a Frisbee, and jogging through the park can also get your heart rate up and your blood flowing.

Not surprisingly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports there are numerous health benefits associated with having a pet, such as decreased blood pressure and lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

Pets Can Center You Emotionally

Pets are phenomenal companions, whether they’re sleeping next to you at night or curled up in your lap while you’re working from home at your desk. They’re also great study buddies when you’re unable to find a human companion to prep for midterms or final exams with.

It’s also worth noting that dogs can sense their owners’ feelings and have been known to offer emotional support if they perceive it’s needed. As such, if you start to get stressed the next time you write a term paper, don’t be surprised if Fido tries to distract you by putting his head on your lap or pawing at your leg.

They Provide Unconditional Love

If you have a pet, you understand the happiness that comes with having your dog greet you at the end of a long day. Cat owners know how great it feels to have their feline friends jump into their laps, curl up into a ball, and start purring. The human-animal bond is something that all pet owners have experienced, and it’s hard to explain to someone who has never had pets. The best part is that your pet will be there for you on both the days you ace your assigned coursework as well as the days you wish you had performed better.

The Bottom Line: Pets Make Life Better

The benefits of owning a pet are seemingly infinite. Pets are wonderful snuggle buddies and heating blankets on cold winter nights, and they’re playful companions in the spring and summer. Although pet owners may never agree which animal makes the best companion, they can all agree that owning a pet makes life better.


Anxiety and Depression Association of America, “Alleviating Anxiety, Stress, and Depression with the Pet Effect”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “About Pets & People”

CountryLiving, “8 Physical and Mental Health Benefits of Owning a Dog”

Harpeth Hills Animal Hospital, “Unconditional Love: The Benefits of Owning a Pet”

HelpGuide, “The Mood-Boosting Power of Pets”

Psychology Today, “How Dogs Drive Emotional Well-Being”

Science Magazine, “Oxytocin-Gaze Positive Loop and the Coevolution of Human-Dog Bonds”

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