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The brain-boosting benefits of having a pet

A woman pets a happy-looking spaniel.

July 4, 2022—When it comes to companionship and unconditional emotional support, the connection you have with your pet can't be beat.

But living with a pet has more concrete benefits than that warm and fuzzy feeling. Researchers have found that pet ownership actually improves our brain and emotional health.

According to a survey by the American Heart Association (AHA), 95% of cat or dog owners rely on their animal companion for stress relief. The most common ways for pets to help are snuggling, making their owners laugh and helping them feel less lonely.

Even interacting with others' pets can help reduce our stress. Simply petting a dog can lower your blood pressure.

In addition, the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) reports that owning a pet may slow cognitive decline in older adults. This is especially true for long-term pet ownership.

 

10 brain and mood benefits of pets

Whether you're caring for an elderly cat or a frisky puppy, your furry friend may be helping your brain and emotional health. According to the AHA and AAN, pets can:

  1. Reduce stress.
  2. Improve your mood.
  3. Make you laugh.
  4. Reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation.
  5. Encourage exercise.
  6. Improve cognitive health.
  7. Help prevent depression.
  8. Help you recover after a health event.
  9. Create more opportunities to socialize.
  10. Give you a greater sense of purpose.

Beyond the brain

Pets don't just make us happy—they can affect our health from head to toe. Take our Pets quiz to find out how much you know about pets and your health.

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