Pawsitive impact: How pets can improve our mental health

Pets can be a great source of joy and companionship, and research shows that they can also have a positive impact on our mental health. As an animal lover (cats in particular, my two pictured below) I recognise the impact my own cats have upon my mental health and how much I crave their presence after a stressful or eventful day. 

Featuring: Louise’s two adorable cats

As a child counsellor, I have consistently seen the positive impact that pets can have on a child or young person’s mental health and how cuddling or playing with a pet is often a top 3 coping strategy to support regulation. Pets can provide comfort and emotional support and can even help to reduce stress, anxiety and increase pro-social behaviours. 

In this article, I will explore ways in which pets can have a positive impact on a child’s mental health. 

Pets provide unconditional love and companionship. 

One of the most significant benefits to having a pet is the unconditional love and companionship they provide. Children who may struggle with social skills or have difficulty developing friendships may find solace in the companionship of a pet through their consistent and constant source of comfort and support – helping a child to feel less lonely and isolated. Having a pet can also encourage friendships to build, with a shared interest and activity to do together, such as walking the dog or horse riding. 

Pets can reduce stress and anxiety.

Studies have shown that pets can help reduce stress and anxiety levels in children, lowering cortisol levels (a stress hormone) and increasing oxytocin (a hormone associated with connection). The act of playing, stroking, or petting an animal can have a calming effect and can help to reduce bigger feelings which are sometimes overwhelming. 

Pets can increase physical activity and encourage healthy habits.

Pets, particularly dogs, can encourage children to be more physically active and create healthy habits. Taking a dog for a walk, running around or playing fetch are just some examples of how dogs can help to increase physical activity. Regular exercise, being outdoors and fresh air have been shown to have a positive impact on mental health and reduce symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression. 

Pets can provide a sense of responsibility and meaning or purpose to a child.

Caring for a pet such as grooming and exercising them requires commitment and can teach important life skills. Children who care for pets may also develop a sense of empathy and compassion as they learn to consider the needs of the animal.

To conclude, pets can offer significant benefits to a child’s mental health and well-being. Providing unconditional love and companionship, reducing stress and anxiety, teaching life skills and fostering empathy and compassion, and helping children feel more connected and supported. If you are considering bringing a pet into your household, research is vital to ensure that you choose the best pet that suits your family. 

To meet with a professional psychologist or counsellor, call The Other Clinic at 8809 0659 or email us


The healing power of pets

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