APA Survey: Pet Ownership Improves Mental Health, Dog and Cat Owners More Likely to Report Positive Effects

APA Survey: Pet Ownership Improves Mental Health, Dog and Cat Owners More Likely to Report Positive Effects

A new survey from the American Psychiatric Association (APA) has proven what most pet owners already know: having pets can significantly improve one’s mental health.

Around 86 percent of the 2,200 respondents to APA’s Healthy Minds Monthly Poll said that pets bring a “mostly positive” effect on their mental health, according to a press release from the APA. Moreover, people who owned dogs and cats were more likely to vouch for this effect than those who owned other types of pets. The survey also found that 88 percent of pet owners consider their pets as part of the family.

The press release notes that half of the respondents said they had dogs, while 35 percent reportedly owned cats. Around 31 percent said that they didn’t own a pet, while 3 percent had pets other than a cat or dog (e.g., birds, turtles, fish).

Some of the key benefits to owning a pet that were cited by the respondents included less stress and anxiety, a source of unconditional love and support, companionship, closeness to a calming presence, and the opportunity to cultivate true friendship. Cat owners were also more likely than dog owners to say that their fur babies offered companionship, a calming presence, and a way to decrease anxiety and stress. On the other hand, dog owners were more likely to report that their pets encouraged physical activity.

As part of the survey, the respondents were also asked about what stressed them out as pet parents. The respondents cited stressors such as their pets aging and dying (71 percent), health issues (66 percent), travel arrangements (56 percent), and medical expenses (58 percent).

Rebecca Brendel, president of the APA, said that people recognize the special bond that they form with their pets, whom they consider non-judgmental companions. Saul Levin, APA medical director and CEO, noted that the benefits of pet ownership ultimately outweigh the stressors and should be a viable option for families seeking that deep connection.

Keeping Your (and Your Pet’s) Mental Health in Check

Pets can help you improve your mental health, but you also need to return that favor and take care of theirs, too. To start, you need to know how to spot signs of distress (e.g., excessive tail-wagging, barking, and panting) and talk to your vet about possible solutions. If you own a dog, you can protect their mental wellness through physical activities such as regular walks and playtime. Toys that keep them mentally stimulated and entertained are a great option as well.

Likewise, you’ll be able to protect your peace of mind by properly dealing with stressors related to your fur baby’s health. Knowing this, you should consider putting a premium on your pet’s health and invest in items that would make living easier for them. You can buy pet merchandise designed to keep your fur baby comfortable and mitigate long-term health issues, for example with custom dog beds that won’t irritate their body and are ergonomic enough to prevent aches and pains.

All in all, having a pet often results in a strong bond between two beings in need of joy, comfort, and love. When sustained adequately, this bond results in a beautiful symbiotic relationship and companionship that lasts a lifetime.


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