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How Pets Can Help with People’s Mental Health During the COVID-19 Pandemic2021/04/04

girl dog walking

We’re all finding the pandemic tough in one way or another. For some we’re missing spending time with friends and relatives or others, it’s going into a normal working environment to help us feel more productive. Prolonged absence of our normal routine can cause use to feel mentally unwell.


But there’s a light at the end of the tunnel in the form of our four-legged friends. Studies conducted by the universities of York and Lincoln discussed mental health during the pandemic with 6000 participants. Those that had pets were found to be handling their mental health much more easily than those that didn’t. In fact, 90% of those with pets cited their pet as one of the reasons that they’d felt so good during lockdown. It seems that having a pet can improve our mental health and help us to cope with unprecedented stress levels.




The thing that most people are missing is having contact with other people. It’s natural for us to crave the company of others and we easily feel lonely without that contact.


Having a pet can change all that though. Pets, especially dogs, can fill a little bit of the void. We all talk to our pets, there’s no shame in it. But did you know that the little conversation about how cute and fluffy they are, while they stare at us with a bemused expression, can actually help us to get over loneliness? Sometimes just talking can help you feel better, even if it is to your pet.


Keeping Your Routine


It’s great to have a routine to get you up in the morning. If you normally work a 9-5, your routine would be to get up and showered at 7am, out the door by 8:30. However, during the pandemic, many people have been furloughed or at the very least, are working from home.


This has created a shift in society, as people struggle to keep to a routine and generally feel demotivated. If they have nothing to get up and dressed for, then people will spend the whole day in their pyjamas watching Netflix.


Having a pet brings back a little of that routine. If you have to walk the dog, feed the cat or clean out the rabbit, then you have something to get up for. Animals will generally be quite demanding about this. If you’re even 5 minutes late to the kitchen to provide the cat’s breakfast, they’re straight on your bed pawing at your face.


Animals require routine to keep them happy and they’ll make sure you feel that obligation to provide it.



Exercise is a known combater of depression. Keeping yourself physically fit releases endorphins, which make you feel uplifted and positive. Doctors will often recommend taking out a gym membership to help people recover from the effects of depression.


However, during the COVID pandemic, gyms aren’t an option. So, what’s the next best thing?

DOG WALKING! Your dog needs constant exercise throughout the day and the responsibility that you have to walk them helps you to get that exercise in too and stick to a constant exercise regime.

man mask dog walking

Reducing Stress


As humans, we crave that human touch and interaction to feel a sense of belonging and calm. We’re pack animals, and not having skin-to-skin contact can stress us out. That’s a massive issue in times of lockdown and self-isolation, as we aren’t able to come into contact with others at all.


Studies have shown that stroking or hugging a pet actually produces the same feeling as hugging another person. It increases our serotonin and dopamine levels, making us feel calmer and more relaxed, eventually reducing our blood pressure too.


Reducing Anxiety


Having a pet to think about really helps to reduce anxiety. They promote an air of calm and make people feel more self-confident, especially when out in public. For those who might find meeting new people a source of anxiety, having a pet not only boosts the opportunities to meet people whilst you’re out on a walk, but gives you that extra support when starting a conversation.


Reducing anxiety also goes hand in hand with mindfulness. One of the biggest causes of anxiety is getting stuck in the past. We overthink every little detail of an event and mull it over until we start to fear the same situation happening again. Having a pet in your life makes you appreciate the ‘now’. Your pet will always need your attention and will focus your mind on what’s going on around you right now, rather than thinking back to the past.


Animal Noises


Anxiety can quickly lead to other issues, such as a lack of sleep. Sleeping is incredibly important for mental health as it helps us repair and make sense of the events that happened the previous day. A lack of sleep can exacerbate any underlying issues so it’s important that you get enough hours every night.


Research shows that constant noises from animals around you can relax your mind and help you to sleep. This might be your dog snoring, your guinea pig snuffling around or even your hamster on its wheel. This comforting background noise can help you to fall asleep much more easily, even if you live alone.


Your Responsibilities


So, it’s obvious that animals can help us to improve our mental health. But we do need to remember that we also have a responsibility to them during these difficult times. When people hear that having a pet can improve mental health, their first reaction might be to immediately go out and buy one.


We must understand that the animals have needs themselves and aren’t there just to make us feel better. If you’re thinking about getting a pet, make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons. A pet is for life, not just for lockdown. Make sure you have the finances, the time and the dedication to keep your pet happy and healthy for the rest of its life. Just because you’re at home all the time now, doesn’t mean you will be forever. Plan ahead!