Your Pet Really Does Make You Happier—Both Cats and Dogs Significantly Improve Mental Health, New Poll Shows

The American Psychiatric Association's survey revealed that pet parents feel like their cats and dogs are members of their families and true friends.

There's no doubt about it: Whether you have dogs or cats, your pets are loving members of your family. And according to the American Psychiatric Association's new Healthy Minds Monthly Poll, the joy pets bring to your household is so strong, it actually increases everyone's mental wellness. To reach these findings, the team surveyed 2,200 adults from February 10 to 12 this year. Out of the respondents, 50 percent had dogs and 35 percent had cats—and 86 percent of all pet owners said their pets had a positive impact on their mental health.

The pet owners shared that their four-legged friends help them in a variety of ways: Sixty-nine percent said that they reduce their stress and anxiety and provide unconditional love and support. Another 69 percent said that their dogs and cats offer companionship, while 66 percent explained they also provide a calming presence. Over half of the respondents (63 percent) said that their bond with their pet runs so deep, they consider them true friends.

cat and dog sleeping
Olga Novikova / Getty Images

While participants noted that there are stressors that come with owning a pet (66 percent feel concerned about their pet's health and 56 percent worry about travel accommodations, for example), the pros definitely outweighed the cons, said Saul Levin, MD, MPA, APA CEO and medical director, in a news release. In fact, 88 percent of the survey respondents said they consider their pets part of their family.

The survey findings highlighted the overwhelming mental health benefits associated with caring for any pet: Whether participants had a dog or cat didn't change the wellness-boosting results, said Rebecca Brendel, MD, JD, the APA president. "The animals we bring into our lives and our families play many roles, from non-judgmental companions that we love to key partners in reducing our stress and anxiety," she says. "Americans clearly recognize that our relationships with our pets can have noticeable benefits for our overall mental health."

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