Friends with Benefits: How Pets Make Us Happier

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic/

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic/

“Animals are reliable, many full of love, true in their affections, predictable in their actions, grateful and loyal. Difficult standards for people to live up to,” Alfred A. Montapert wisely said.

Sixty-two percent of U.S. households include at least one pet, according to the Humane Society. That means there are 164 million pets in this country – more than triple the number during the 1970s. Pets aren’t cheap either. According to the American Pet Products Association, Americans spend more than $50 billion annually on their beloved cats, dogs, and other animal companions.

So are our pets worth all that time, attention, and money we spend on them? You bet! In return, our animals can give us better health and increased happiness.

If you own a pet, you already knew that right? But now a growing body of research backs you up. A recent study by Psychology Today indicated that pets provide meaningful social support for owners and improve their lives.

You’ve probably heard of pet therapy programs in hospitals that help patients facing serious health issues. How do these animals help? Pet therapy reduces feelings of stress and anxiety, decreases blood pressure, improves a patient’s sense of well-being, and reduces the traumatic effect of hospitalization making it a more positive experience.

People facing health challenges aren’t the only ones who can benefit from pets. Studies show that people in general receive physical and emotional advantages from contact with man’s best friend. Pet owners tend to be less depressed, lonely, and stressed. They exhibit greater self-esteem and are usually more physically fit.

Why is that the case? Of course, we feel an incredible amount of comfort when our dog greets us at the door with complete adoration and unconditional love. We can literally feel stress melt away after a hard day at work.  Our adoring furry friends make us feel loved, provide companionship, and put us at ease. Caring for pets gives us a sense of purpose, making us feel needed. Dogs force us to get off the couch for a walk which is good for our physical and mental health. While taking our pet around the block or to a dog park, we’re more likely to be approached by other people and strike up a conversation about our cute little friend making us more sociable.

Research finds no evidence that the type of pet you own matters. Pets of all kinds can make us happier. So whether you own a dog, cat, bird, or hamster – show your appreciation for all they give us with some extra attention and love today. They deserve it.





Julie A. Gorges is the author of two young adult novels, Just Call Me Goody Two Shoes and Time to Cast Away and co-author of Residential Steel Design and Construction published by McGraw Hill. In addition, hundreds of her articles and short stories have been published in national and regional magazines, and she received three journalism awards from the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association while working as a newspaper reporter. Julie currently lives in southern California with her husband, Scott, and has two grown children and three grandchildren.

3 Responses

  1. Linda Biggs says:

    Hi Julie, I lovely post if I may say so. I find the postings about pets to be among the most popular. I’ve had both dogs and cats in the past and found them all such a joy to be around.

    Coincidentally I did a Family Pets posting on my blog just last week if you’d like to pop over for a read.

    Best wishes

    • juliegorges says:

      Thanks Linda. Welcome home. As I commented on your blog, I am enjoying reading your posts now that you are back again. And yes, we have a similar story. My husband, Scott, and I also went several years without a pet after the family dog sadly died from lung cancer. Then Scott found Max, a small puppy shivering outside his office. But as we both wrote, pets are indeed a blessing and this has been true of our latest dog, Max, as well!

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