10 Things to Know About the Psychology of Pets

Many people who own a pet cannot imagine a life without a pet. Many who do not may have no idea what they’re missing! Once we own pet, whether it be a dog, a cat, a rabbit, a horse — or anything else you can think of –they become an essential part of our lives. They can improve our health and well being in a multitude of ways. It’s clear that animals affect our lives on the daily. What is the psychology behind this? Here are 10 things to know about the psychology of pets.

Pets are one of the best ways to improve mental health.

Animals prove time and time again to be the best friends we never expected. When humans choose to own a pet, they create a bond different than a bond with another human. The connection, while non-verbal, can greatly improve mental health. The most common pets are cats and dogs but this connection may exist with other types of pets as well. Pets can reduce the symptoms related to stress, anxiety, and depression. They can also help stave off loneliness and encourage exercise and a healthier lifestyle. These sweet pets do not even realize what they are doing but they are improving their owner’s mental health each day. 

Dogs show us loyalty like no other.

Perhaps the most common and loyal pet is a dog. Dogs, beginning as hunting companions for humans, have been loyal friends for a long time. A dog shows its owner loyalty by being  loving, forgiving, enthusiastic, and adventurous. A dog shows its owner what it is like to show up and be present with someone time and time again, regardless of anything. On a deeper psychological level, a dog shows its owner what it is like to be loved without boundaries, without concerns, and without another option. They rely on us for love and survival. A dog’s entire world is their owner and they do not hide how grateful they are. 

Pets may provide a sense of comfort.

Pets may provide their owners with an irreplaceable type of comfort. Pets can cure loneliness. They can also make their owners feel safe. For many others, the comfort that owning an animal can provide may come from the consistency. They must be cared for each day. They need our attention regardless of our personal lives or work, and they always treat us the same way. This level of comfort goes unmatched. Because of this, animals may help cure loneliness. They can fill space, provide purpose, and be company for their owners. This is why many people who are single, live alone, or are elderly are quick to bring an animal into their lives. 

Owning a pet can reduce the symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Depression and anxiety are mood disorders that can very quickly take over someone’s life. The disorders can affect their day to day lives and make it difficult to get out of bed, never mind lead a normal life. However, many studies show that owning a pet can help people of all ages manage depression and anxiety. A pet helps with this by showing their owners that they are not alone, providing them with an important schedule for the day, and making them feel calm and comfortable. Depending on the type of pet, they may also give their owners a reason to have to get outside or choose to socialize with people who have the same type of pet. For example, a morning at the dog park!

Have you ever had a dog coming running to greet you at the door after a terrible day? Have you ever been crying in bed from sadness and depression and a cat came and curled up on your lap? This is the perfect example. Animals are there for us in the in the best and worst of times. 

Owning a pet can increase confidence and promote responsibility.

As we mentioned above, pets require their owners to have a regular schedule. Their owners are their primary caretakers and they need them to survive. The structure of a schedule is great for those struggling with mental health issues for a multitude of reasons. Perhaps the biggest benefit is a newfound confidence. Pets give their owners a sense of purpose and a reason to keep living. Owning a pet increases confidence and self worth for many kinds of people all over the world. Pet owners must get out of bed, start their day, and follow their schedule in order to keep their pet healthy. This also greatly promotes a sense of responsibility. All of which is huge and hard to find elsewhere!

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There are physical benefits to owning an animal as well!

Just as there are many psychological benefits to owning a pet, there are many physical benefits as well. Pets keep their owners active and provide them with structure which in turn leads to health benefits. These may include decreased blood pressure, decreased cholesterol levels, decreased triglyceride levels, and boosting serotonin levels. And as we mentioned above, there are increased opportunities for exercising, finding outdoor activities, and partaking in social activities. All of these are strong benefits that increase our physical health!

Different animals may fit different personalities better than others.

Similar to how not all people will align with our personality types, not all animals with align with our personalities to make the right choice as a pet. When someone chooses to own a pet, they have likely considered their individual personality and their lifestyle. For example, someone who likes to get comfortable on the couch, doesn’t spend a lot of time outside, and lives a pretty low maintenance lifestyle may do great with a pet cat. Someone who loves getting outside and going on hikes and hanging with their friends at the local brewery may prefer a pet dog. A young child who is still in school, plays sports, and is new to owning animals may do best with a rabbit or a fish. There are many different types of animals that make great pets but people may want to think about themselves before choosing to own one!

Emotional support and service animals can save lives.

A service animal is a working animal that has been specifically trained to perform tasks for their disabled owner. For example, someone who is blind or deaf, prone to seizures, has frequent panic attacks, etc. These animals go through training classes and earn a certificate once they can detect danger, provide comfort, alert help, or anything else that may benefit their owner. An emotional support animal is an animal that provides relief and comfort for someone who is disabled. They are similar to service dogs but they do not require the same level of training and can used for more mild disabilities such as general anxiety, fears, etc. These animals may also be used in hospitals, in schools, or for therapeutic reasons. Sometimes they have a trainer or guardian rather than one set owner that they provide their services for. 

Children who have pets may grow up with a different level of respect and care than those who do not.

Many studies show how beneficial adding a pet to your family can be. When a child grows up with a pet, it may affect them on a psychological level and stay with them throughout their adult life. Perhaps the biggest benefit to having a family pet is the unconditional love that they provide. Pets are sweet and non-judgmental. They can relate to children on an innocent level when they are lonely or in emotional distress. Many children may find comfort in this and quickly develop a best friendship with their pet. The other lessons that kids learn from their pets include:

-Not taking out their anger on others
-Not putting their fear onto others
-Teaching them empathy
-Teaching them about responsibility
-Increase their confidence and helping with emotional growth
-Aid in socializing with other children
-Helping with verbal skills when they are very young
-Providing them with a furry therapist
-Teaching them about loss and sickness

Some jails and prisons have been providing prisoners with an animal to train.

In recent years, prison animal programs have been gaining popularity around the world. The programs team up inmates in prison with dogs that have been hard to adopt out in animal shelters. The inmate is meant to train the dog during their sentence and rehabilitate them so that they can be released back into society. Spending time with their assigned inmate and getting one on one training makes them far more likely to be adopted out into a new home. While these dogs are not owned by the prisoners, they do create a meaningful bond that benefits both of them. For the inmates, this program has many psychological benefits! These dogs are completely non-judgmental of what put these people behind bars. They also provide inmates with a sense of purpose and give them a chance to see success and hope for a better future. 

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