Mental Health Benefits of Adopting

From exercise companion to stress reliever to social connector, pets play many roles in benefiting one’s mental wellbeing. “Dogs and cats help us to reduce stress and anxiety, help bring people out of depression, and they encourage people to get up and exercise, which can lead to lower blood pressure,” says April Peiffer, community programs coordinator at the Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter. 

Research shows that simply petting a furry friend—or even watching fish swim in an aquarium—can lower stress levels. Further, if you find your social skills rusty after the pandemic, or just experience social anxiety in general, adopting a pet can enhance social connections and they are great conversation starters. Joining a pet club, attending pet shows, and visiting pet-friendly restaurants, events, beaches, and parks can all increase your social network, according to health information provider Health Direct. “You could make new friends just by taking your dog for a walk or waiting at the vet, due to the shared interest in your pets. If you have a fear of social situations, or social phobia, a pet can help by enabling you to slowly introduce yourself to other people who also have pets and enhance your mental health.”

Seniors, in particular, need look no further than a furry friend when it comes to a walking buddy or a simple need for companionship. “A long walk with a dog through a lovely park is good for the mind, body, and spirit, and a purring or tail-wagging companion lying next to you on the couch while watching television is the perfect answer to anyone who may be experiencing loneliness,” April says. The shelter’s Seniors for Seniors program is designed to match senior pets with senior citizens, and all pets age 6 and up are free to adopt to a citizen age 65 and older.

“Pet ownership is rewarding in so many ways, but its effect on our mental wellbeing might be the biggest contribution to us as a family member,” April says. “Pets are a source of joy, comfort, laughter, and just plain happiness, and they encourage us to get up and move, all of which leads to a healthier mind. Adopt a pet from Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter and see for yourself!”