How Being A Pet Parent Can Benefit Your Mental Health

Your pet’s mental health matters too 💛

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Any pet parent will tell you that having a furry best friend is one of the greatest joys. There’s something about your cat or dog being excited to see you when you come home or wanting to sit on your lap when you’re relaxing that just cracks your heart wide open. Aside from the cuddles and playtime fun, there are a lot of mental health benefits to having a pet in your home, both for pet parents and their companions. Since mental health is especially important for the LGBTQ+ community — LGBTQ+ people are 1.5 times more likely to develop depression and anxiety — in anticipation of Pride Month, The Dodo is sharing how that human-pet connection can help, from increasing a sense of self-worth to reduced stress.

Feeling a sense of belonging

Our pets are just like any other family member and we give them the same tender loving care that we would give anyone we consider a relative. When you adopt a pet, you’re giving them the security of a forever home and a sense of belonging they might not have experienced before — and that feeling can go both ways. Adopting a pet gives that dog or cat a second chance, which may hit home for many members of the LGBTQ+ community, who can face rejection from their families when they share their sexuality. According to a 2021 UK survey, 82% of LGBTQ+ pet parents report that being around animals helps their mental health, showing that both parties receive the feeling of belonging that they rightfully deserve.

Helping with depression

Who doesn’t love when their pet gives them cuddles and kisses? Open expression of love and affection with a pet can greatly help a person when they aren’t feeling their best. Those within the LGBTQ+ community are more likely to live with depression than their straight and cis counterparts, and research studies have shown that human-animal interactions have positive psychological effects. One study showed that 5-24 minutes of petting a dog increased dopamine in both the human and dog, even more when the animal was their own pet. So go ahead and give your pet some extra love – it’s good for them, too!

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Photo: Courtesy of DREAMIES™

Sometimes a helping hand can go a long way. In 2022, DREAMIES™ is working with LGBT Foundation's Helpline to support mental health services for the LGBTQ+ community. Together, we can create a brighter world for cats and cat parents. Find out more here

Creating healthy habits and routines

Being a pet parent gives you a sense of purpose for each day, which can help with creating healthy habits that may otherwise be difficult when you live with a mental illness. When you have an obligation to someone other than yourself — especially a living creature that cannot care for itself — it gives you that reason to get out of bed. While feeding your animal, taking them for a walk, and giving them obligatory (and fun!) playtime won't solve anyone's mental illnesses, these actions give you both a healthy routine and can add to one’s sense of self-actualisation and self-worth.

Lowering stress levels

With so many responsibilities as an adult, the one that is guaranteed to bring a smile to your face is caring for a pet who’s happy to see you every time you come home, which can help alleviate day-to-day stress. LGBTQ+ teens and adults especially are at a greater risk of living with stressors that can contribute to mental health issues throughout their lives. While a pet can’t fix all the situations that bring us down, interacting with an animal has been shown to reduce a person’s blood pressure, relax muscle tension, and regulate breathing patterns — not to mention provide companionship and unconditional love (for both of you).