Struggling with stress and anxiety can disrupt everyday life, but simply owning a cat or dog can relieve these troubles.
Whether it be having a companion, something to be responsible for, or a way to destress, owning a cat or dog might help one’s mental health. In a study by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), polls show that owning a cat or dog can benefit one’s overall mental health.
“I wasn’t really great mentally before I got cats,” said Caillie Warren. “I don’t know if it’s the cats themselves or the aspect of caring for them, but even my dad has said I seem happier now.”
When asked about their pets' impact on their mental health, 86% of pet owners said there is a positive impact. This includes helping to reduce stress and anxiety, providing unconditional love and support, offering companionship and a calming presence, and having a true friend. Many look to their cat or dog to feel better.
With the difference between cats and dogs, there’s virtually no difference in how many people say they benefit from their pet’s presence. Among cat owners, 86% voted they felt better due to their cat. Likewise, 87% of dog owners said the same. However, compared to dog owners, cat owners say their pets are more likely to offer companionship, reduce anxiety, and provide a calming presence.
“To be completely honest, I don’t really notice a change,” revealed Hannah Norton. “I’ve had points in my life where I’ve had dogs and cats and points where I didn’t, but neither pet really affected my mental health. Even if they did, it wasn’t a noticeable difference.”
However, many are pushed away from owning pets due to the stressors that come with them. Related stressors can include the death of pets and pets’ health conditions. 22% of non-pet-owners said they did not have the time to care for a pet. 29% said they wouldn’t be able to afford it. This shows that owning a pet isn’t beneficial for everyone and might put extra stress or worry on someone’s plate.
“I’ve thought about keeping a pet before,” said Cortney Wilson. “I’d like to think I’d benefit from having one, but I wouldn’t be able to care for it. I’d end up feeling bad for the thing.”
The APA’s conclusion shows that the benefits outweigh the disadvantages when it comes to owning a pet. They even suggest that if you cannot afford to care for a pet, volunteer at a shelter to seek that connection.
“I always feel better with my cat,” said Kyle Mann. “I find myself feeling down when I’m not around him, but with him, I can’t be sad.”