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Pets and Human Mental Health

Furry Healers: The Transformative Power of Pets on Mental Wellbeing

In an ever-evolving world fraught with stressors and uncertainties, the bond between humans and their furry companions has emerged as a beacon of solace and support. As a global concern it is estimated that 970 million people in the world have a mental disorder.1 Beyond being cuddly creatures or playful pals, pets have quietly assumed the role of unsung heroes in the realm of mental health. Scientific research and countless anecdotal accounts attest to their remarkable ability to alleviate stress, reduce anxiety, and provide unwavering companionship during times of emotional turbulence. Whether it’s the gentle purring of a cat, the enthusiastic wagging of a dog’s tail, or the serene presence of a fish gliding through its tank, the presence of pets in our lives holds profound therapeutic potential.

Stress Busters and Mood Boosters:

Cats, dogs, and even fish each bring their unique brand of comfort and companionship to the table, serving as potent stress reducers and mood boosters in their own right. Stroking a purring cat or playing fetch with a happy dog can trigger the release of feel-good chemicals like oxytocin and dopamine, promoting relaxation and feelings of happiness.2 The gentle purring of a cat nestled in one’s lap has a calming effect, often likened to a soothing melody that lulls worries away. Their soft fur and affectionate demeanor provide a tangible source of comfort, fostering feelings of contentment and security. Studies have shown that interacting with pets can significantly reduce stress hormones like cortisol.3 On the other hand, dogs, with their boundless energy and unwavering loyalty, are expert mood lifters. Their playful antics and unconditional love infuse joy into even the dreariest of days, encouraging physical activity and social interaction that can ward off feelings of loneliness and depression. Meanwhile, the tranquil presence of fish swimming gracefully in an aquarium has a mesmerizing effect, inducing a sense of serenity and tranquility. Observing their graceful movements can be a meditative experience, promoting relaxation and reducing stress levels. Whether it’s the playful antics of a dog, the soothing purrs of a cat, or the serene presence of fish, these beloved pets offer invaluable companionship and serve as powerful allies in the ongoing battle against stress and mood disorders.

Combating Loneliness and Social Anxiety:

Pets play significant roles in combating loneliness and social anxiety, offering invaluable companionship and support to their human counterparts. Dogs, with their innate sociability and unwavering loyalty, excel at breaking down barriers and facilitating social interactions. Their outgoing nature encourages their owners to engage with the world around them, whether through daily walks in the park or playful interactions at dog-friendly events. Owning a dog can motivate us to get outside and socialize with other dog owners, fostering a sense of community and belonging.4 Additionally, the unconditional love and companionship provided by dogs can serve as a potent antidote to feelings of isolation, fostering a sense of belonging and connection.

Similarly, cats, though often stereotyped as solitary creatures, possess a remarkable ability to provide comfort and companionship to their owners. Their quiet presence and soothing purrs offer solace during moments of solitude, serving as a reassuring reminder that one is never truly alone. For individuals struggling with social anxiety, the gentle affection and nonjudgmental companionship of a cat can provide a safe space to practice social interaction and build confidence.

Even fish, despite their lack of vocalization or physical interaction, can play a crucial role in combating loneliness and social anxiety. The serene presence of fish swimming gracefully in an aquarium can create a calming and comforting atmosphere, serving as a source of relaxation and distraction from anxious thoughts. Additionally, caring for an aquarium can provide a sense of purpose and routine, promoting feelings of accomplishment and self-worth.

In essence, whether it’s the outgoing nature of dogs, the quiet companionship of cats, or the tranquil presence of fish, these beloved pets offer invaluable support to individuals grappling with loneliness and social anxiety, helping them navigate the complexities of human connection with greater ease and confidence. Pets offer companionship and unconditional love, which can be a powerful antidote to loneliness and social isolation.

Increased Physical Activity:

Pets, particularly dogs, have a remarkable ability to increase humans’ physical activity levels. With their boundless energy and enthusiasm for outdoor adventures, dogs serve as motivating companions for daily walks, runs, and hikes. The responsibility of caring for a dog often entails regular exercise, as pet owners prioritize their furry friend’s wellbeing through active outings. These activities not only benefit the physical health of both pet and owner but also provide opportunities for socialization and interaction with other dog owners in the community. Additionally, engaging in playful activities such as fetch or agility training can further elevate heart rates and promote muscle strength and flexibility. Exercise releases endorphins, natural mood elevators that combat depression and anxiety.5 Even indoor pets like cats and fish can indirectly encourage physical activity by prompting their owners to engage in tasks such as cleaning the litter box or maintaining an aquarium, which require movement and exertion. Ultimately, the presence of pets serves as a powerful catalyst for leading a more active lifestyle, contributing to improved cardiovascular health, weight management, and overall wellbeing.

Improved Emotional Regulation:

Pets have a profound impact on emotional regulation, providing a source of comfort and stability during times of stress or upheaval. The unconditional love and nonjudgmental companionship offered by pets create a safe and nurturing environment where individuals can freely express their emotions without fear of rejection or criticism. The act of petting or cuddling with a furry friend triggers the release of oxytocin, often referred to as the “love hormone,” which promotes feelings of relaxation and contentment while reducing levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. This biochemical response helps to soothe frazzled nerves and alleviate anxiety, fostering a sense of calm and emotional balance. Moreover, the routine and responsibility of caring for a pet instills a sense of purpose and structure in one’s daily life, providing a sense of stability and predictability that can help regulate mood and emotions. The routine of feeding, walking, and playing with our pets can create structure and stability, especially beneficial for those struggling with anxiety or depression.5 Whether it’s the gentle purring of a cat, the enthusiastic wagging of a dog’s tail, or the serene presence of fish swimming gracefully in an aquarium, the companionship of pets offers a powerful antidote to emotional distress, promoting resilience and well-being in the face of life’s challenges.

Feline Therapy:

Feline therapy, often overlooked in comparison to its canine counterpart, holds remarkable potential for improving human emotional wellbeing. Cats, with their independent yet affectionate nature, possess a unique ability to provide comfort and support to their owners. Studies suggest that owning a cat can lower blood pressure and heart rate, promoting relaxation and reducing stress.7 The rhythmic sound of a cat’s purr has been shown to have therapeutic effects, promoting relaxation and reducing stress levels thought to have a calming effect on the nervous system.8 Simply stroking a cat can release endorphins and decrease feelings of anxiety, fostering a sense of calm and contentment. Moreover, the gentle companionship of a cat can alleviate feelings of loneliness and isolation, offering unconditional love and acceptance to their human companions. The low-maintenance nature of cats also makes them accessible emotional support animals for individuals with limited mobility or resources. Whether curled up in a cozy corner or playfully engaging with their owners, cats offer a constant source of companionship and joy that can significantly enhance emotional well-being. Through their quiet presence and intuitive understanding, feline therapy enriches the lives of countless individuals, providing solace and comfort in times of need.

Considering a Furry Friend?

If you’re looking for ways to improve your mental health, adopting a pet can be a rewarding experience. However, pet ownership is a long-term commitment, so please ensure you can provide for the animal’s needs before welcoming them into your life. When you do share your life with a pet, prepare for them to enrich our lives in countless ways. From reducing stress to boosting our mood, they are furry therapists deserving of all the love and care we can give them.

Wellness Foundation

At Wellness Pet Company, we strive every day to make the best scientifically proven natural[1]* pet food to deliver a difference pets will feel, and pet parents will see to enable a shared life of wellbeing.  Every recipe is made with high-quality ingredients to support whole-body health so that you and your dog, or cat can share a life of wellbeing together. While Wellness Pet products aim to keep pets happy and healthy, the Wellness Foundation is working to improve the mutual wellbeing that comes from the comfort, joy, and companionship of our pets. Through our valued partners, we aim to:

  • Create widespread awareness of the mutually beneficial relationship between pets and people that positively impacts their shared health, happiness, and wellbeing.
  • Fund, attend, and support activities that validate the positive effects pet parenting can have on shared experience and help create a fulfilling life of wellbeing – enabling more humans to see and benefit from interacting with pets.
  • Identify and support the funding of projects that will provide information and education to communities, targeted audiences, and the general public.

Learn more about The Wellness Foundation and its partners including Pet Partners and Pets & People here:


  1. WHO (2022). World mental health report: Transforming mental health for all [Internet]. Report No.: ISBN: 9789240049338. Available from:
  2. Niemiec, R. (2014). Psychology of human-animal relationships. Cambridge University Press.
  3. Pendry, Patricia, and Jaymie L. Vandagriff. “Animal visitation program (AVP) reduces cortisol levels of university students: A randomized controlled trial.” Aera Open 5.2 (2019): 2332858419852592.
  4. Mathews, A., & Mugford, R. (2018). Dog ownership, social support, and mental health in a community sample. Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, 72(11), 1072-1077.:
  5. Physical Activity and Mental Health. (2020, September 24). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  6. Friedmann, E. (2017). Animal companions and human well-being: A review of the evidence. Animals, 7(1), 8.
  7. Allen, K., Blascovich, J., & Mendes, W. (2002). Cat ownership and blood pressure and heart rate in healthy young men. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82(3), 617.:
  8. [Schoenfeld-Tacher, R., & Lintz, H. (2015). Purring cats (Felis catus) have a positive influence on human health and well-being: A systematic review. Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, 10(6), e1-7.

[1] With added vitamins, minerals and trace nutrients

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