HomeCommunityPets proven to bring mental health, physical benefits to owners

Pets proven to bring mental health, physical benefits to owners

Published Dec. 15, 2021

BY SARA EYJOLFSDOTTIR

It has long been known that pets bring joy and happiness to households, providing emotional support for many and serving as an important form of socialization for many pet owners, with more recent studies showing that especially in times of isolation and quarantine the presence of pets in a household positively impacts the mental and physical health of their owners.

“Pets are a great way to connect with other people through talking to others about your pets and sharing something in common with another person,” says Beth Brookhouser, vice president of marketing and communications for the SPCA Monterey County. 

In addition to increasing social interaction, animals act as valuable companions for pet owners that are elderly or live alone–someone to wake up to, to care for and to love. 

“Owning a pet gives a person companionship and such a pure joy that is hard to find elsewhere,” says Sarah Adams, owner, president and founder of The Raw Connection in Carmel. “Having a dog or cat curl up in your lap after a tough day is just such a comforting thing.”

Adams started the pet food store after making the switch to a raw, non-processed diet to improve the health of her dogs and becoming inspired to help other pet owners do the same. 

The COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown brought an increase in pet ownership across the country, rising to around 70% of American households as people turned to animals for an emotional bond.

“When COVID came and emotions were a little unstable, my parents decided it would be a good thing for the family to get a dog to fill in some emotional gaps,” recalls sophomore Lisa Pajek, owner of 1-year-old Jimmy, a male Havanese dog. “Every time we come home, we are greeted by a dog who is excited by our presence and always brings a smile to our faces.”

Pets across America improve mental and physical health of owners. (courtesy of PEXELS)

Another of the numerous benefits of owning a pet is their impact on the physical health of humans. This includes lowering risk of death from cardiovascular disease, boosting immune systems and decreasing cholesterol levels. 

“There are so many health benefits to owning a pet,” notes Brookhouser, who currently owns a dog, three cats, seven chickens and two fish. “Numerous studies have shown that petting a cat or dog can lower your blood pressure, and of course having something to get you outside and going on a walk around the block can help so much.”

Walking dogs provides a source of regular exercise, which along with playing with any sort of animal, not only positively impacts the physical health of the pet, but also of the owners by improving cardiovascular health and strengthening muscles and bones. 

“I often take my dog, Chloe, for walks,” says freshman Ava Ghio, who is among many pet owners who regularly walk or exercise with their pets.

With the holiday season already underway and the recent boom in pet owners, the pet industry has noticed an increase in sales as well. 

“There has been a definite increase in our sales, due in part to the increase of owners during the pandemic and because the more owners feed their pets healthy, raw diets, the more we see that spread to other pet owners as well,” Adams says.

Pet ownership in 2021, although somewhat less than the pandemic surge of 2020, is still growing at an increase rate of around 2-4%, according to Consulting.us, and is expected to continue doing so over the next couple of years. 

And Brookhouser says, “If you are thinking about adopting an animal, any animal, think about the SPCA Monterey County first because you never know who might be waiting for you here.”

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