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Stress Relief Benefits of Owning a Dog or Cat

Updated on February 8, 2017
carolynkaye profile image

I'm a freelance writer and lifelong animal lover who's owned cats, dogs, birds, turtles, fish, frogs, guinea pigs, gerbils, and rabbits.


Dog and cat owners already know how much love and happiness their pets bring to their lives, but did you know that owning a dog or cat has many stress relief benefits?

Numerous studies in recent years have shown that dogs and cats can significantly reduce our overall stress level, improve our sense of well-being and even prevent many serious stress related health problems such as strokes and heart attacks.

Here are just a few of the many ways owning a dog or cat can offer stress relief and improve our lives.

We all know that exercise is a great way to reduce stress. If you’re a dog owner, you’re getting regular, moderate exercise every time you take your dog out for a walk. If you and your pooch go for a jog, you’re getting even more stress relief as well as improving your cardiovascular health and fitness level.

Petting your cat doesn’t just make him purr, it has also been proven to lower your blood pressure and your heart rate. According to a February 2008 study in US News & World Report, being a cat owner can reduce your risk for a heart attack by one-third. 1

When you come home after a long day, what can uplift your mood and make you feel more relaxed than your happy, smiling dog greeting you with a wagging tail? All the stress and worries of the day melt away because your dog is thrilled you’re finally home.

Walking your dog is a great way to relieve stress, get exercise and socialize.
Walking your dog is a great way to relieve stress, get exercise and socialize. | Source

Owning a dog or cat tends to make people more social, which can reduce the stress feeling isolated can cause. Whether you’re at a dog park or pet store chatting with other dog owners or just talking to your friends or co-workers about your pets, the sense of commonality makes people feel more connected.

Studies have shown that having a dog in the workplace can reduce employee stress levels throughout the day and even make people more productive and satisfied with their job. 2

A dog or cat’s unconditional love can be a constant, soothing presence in our busy, hectic lives. Pets can sense when we’re stressed, angry or upset and will often cuddle beside us, as their way of telling us everything will be all right.

A 2002 State University of New York, Buffalo study showed that people were less stressed with their pet nearby when they had to perform a stressful task than with a close friend or family member. 3

A study of stockbrokers with high-blood pressure showed that those who owned pets had lower blood pressure and heart rates compared to those who weren’t pet owners. 4

Dogs and cats have been shown to help soldiers suffering with stress and anxiety-related symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In one study, doctors found that patients who spent time with a dog had an 82% reduction of their PTSD symptoms. 5

Pets can be helpful in lowering the stress hormone “cortisol”. According to Dr. Jack Stevens, “Interacting with pets reduces your cortisol levels, almost like an “all clear” signal to calm us down. Measurements of cortisol levels in our bloodstream decrease when we are quietly caressing or petting a dog. Although to date, only measurements of blood chemistry have been done in humans, interacting with dogs, there is other strong evidence that similar positive results would be present with any animal or pet.” 6


Colleges across the country are realizing how dogs can help stressed-out students unwind. Schools such as Harvard, Kent State University, Yale Law School and Emory University are just a few of the schools that have therapy dogs on campus to provide students with stress relief during exam season. 7

Cats can have such a calming effect on their owners that they are 40% less likely to have a fatal heart attack. 8 They can also cut a person’s risk of having a stroke by more than one-third. 9

If you don’t already own a dog or cat and are thinking about adopting a pet, see the Pet Adoption links below.


Sources Referenced

(1) Being a cat owner can lower your risk of a heart attack by one-third.
(2) Office dogs can lower the stress levels of employees.
(3) A pet can lower stress even more than family or friends.
(4) Stockbrokers with pets have lower stress levels.
(5) Pets helping soldiers suffering with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
(6) Pets can lower cortisol levels.
(7) Universities with dogs on Campus During Exam Season.
(8) People with cats are 40% less likely to have a fatal heart attack.
(9) Owning a cat cuts a person’s risk of having a stroke by more than one-third.

Having a cat or dog can help relieve stress.
Having a cat or dog can help relieve stress. | Source

© 2012 carolynkaye


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    • carolynkaye profile image

      carolynkaye 4 years ago from USA

      Thanks, jessefutch :)

    • jessefutch profile image

      jessefutch 4 years ago from North Carolina

      This is so true! I actually know people who have gotten their dogs "certified" as service animals because of their ability to lower the owner's blood pressure! Animals can be excellent stress relievers and are proven in many cases to be beneficial to health. Excellent hub.