Science Says: Relaxing With Your Pet Is Great for Your Health (and Theirs!)
When people closely interact with their pets, they experience a spike in the powerful “love hormone”, oxytocin. Oxytocin is well-known to nursing human mothers and people that tightly embrace loved ones, but it may be surprising that animals experience the positive effects, too.
As a result, when relaxing with your pet, say, during a great weekend couch snuggle, the boons to your health are quite amazing. What’s more is that your pet experiences the good vibes, too. Win-win!
Starting With the Brain
Oxytocin supports and regulates the social concepts in the brain, such as empathy, compassion, trust, and remembering another’s personal preferences. When people are with their kids – or simply see them – the hormone flows freely.
Across species, the same trend has been discovered. Contact with a beloved pet causes oxytocin to swell, too. In fact, even a mere head scratch of a furry best friend significantly decreases cortisol (the stress hormone) resulting in some pretty good feelings.
What About Them?
If oxytocin levels can empirically prove how much people love their pets, then they truly reveal how much pets love their owners. Indeed, evidence suggests that baseline oxytocin levels skyrocket in dogs that play with their owners – by 57%!
For cats, the results have been a little more subtle. Oxytocin in cats does rise when they’re around their owners, but only by about 12%.
Relaxing With Your Pet
For pet owners, there are few moments more gratifying than seeing the pure joy on a pet’s face when you come home. Not only are they happy to see you, but with their constant presence and support, the stress of the day seems to melt away.
Pets are part of us. Like another member of the family, they make us feel loved, nurtured and supported. While their companionship is unrivaled, pets positively impact our mental and physical health as well:
- Relieve stress and anxiety
- Boost cardiovascular health through decreased risk of obesity, lower blood pressure, and lower cholesterol
- Increase exposure to the outdoors which helps us get vitamin D (which eases depression and enhances immunity)
- Increase social interaction and minimize feelings of isolation and loneliness (pet owners like other pet owners!)
- Keep us in the present moment
- Fight allergies by building immunity against allergens and bacteria
- Develop our ability to build strong, trusting relationships through increased self-esteem
- Help boost moods and increase cognitive function
- Add to our overall quality of life
- Offer unconditional, non-judgemental love
If you have additional questions or concerns about relaxing with your pet, the Pet Experts at Elmhurst Animal Care Center are always here for you!