Pets and Mental Health

By Meredith Ayan, Executive Director

It may seem obvious to long-time pet parents, but pet ownership provides numerous mental health benefits. Amidst the pandemic, more and more people are learning what many of us have long understood – pets boost our wellbeing with their unconditional love, quirky habits and daily needs. They provide emotional support and zero judgement.

HABRI (the Human Animal Bond Research Institute) has even coined a term called “The Pet Effect” to describe the mutually beneficial relationship between pets and humans. Their research has found that pet owners benefit from companionship, a sense of purpose and confidence. They also found a correlation between pet ownership and overall health, showing that pet ownership saves billions in healthcare costs each year!

Fortunately, in my work at SPCA International, I get to see the bond between humans and their pets on a regular basis. Nearly every soldier who contacts us for help transporting a pet to their home or next duty station, speaks of their love for their cat or dog. They share stories of pets helping them overcome the depression and anxiety of deployment and of the role their pets play as they assimilate back into civilian life.

Furthermore, it fills my heart with joy when SPCA International helps match lucky dogs and cats with loving forever homes. Some of these pets have suffered incredibly, but they still have so much to give, and they go on to bond deeply with their families.

Today I’m reflecting on all the animals who have lifted my mood over the years; pets that were family members and even the hurt, scared and lonely animals I have held in my work with SPCA International. As we look back on the past year of quarantine and uncertainty, I know there are many of us who are thankful that our animals were there to get us through.