700 Children's® – A Blog by Pediatric Experts

Pets and Mental Health: How Furry Friends Can Impact Your Child’s Life

Jul 16, 2019
Little boy and dog sitting in the grass

Whether your friend is feathered, furry or scaled, pets can have a significant impact on our lives and our mental health. Studies have shown that having pets leads to a number of mental health benefits, such as decreased anxiety and depression, improved self-esteem and creating a sense of purpose.

If you are considering getting a pet, here are four benefits that can come from having a four-legged friend.

Reduces Stress and Anxiety

Several studies have shown that petting a dog or cat, or simply being in the presence of them, can lower blood pressure, and therefore anxiety. It has been proven that people have a psychological need for physical touch. Physical touch decreases violence, builds trust, boosts our immune system and reduces stress.

Provides Routine and Structure

Pets require daily care. This creates structure and a regular routine for their caretakers. Setting a schedule for when you or your child should feed, exercise and clean up after your pet will help build responsible behaviors and provide a sense of organization for your child. Organization is important for our mental health. It creates  stability and a sense of control over our lives. It is easier to deal with unpredictable situations when there are other constants in place.

Builds Positive Social Skills

Pets can help build positive social skills and relationships in a variety of ways. Pets and their owners build a bond that teaches us about compassion and care for another living creature. Children can translate these skills into their day-to-day interactions with other people. For children who are shy or have a hard time in social settings, a pet can be a great starting point to get them comfortable with social interactions.

Reduces Depression

Having a pet reduces levels of depression. The comfort and companionship of a pet can make us feel less lonely. For many people, when their pet comes to them, it serves as a reminder that they are not alone. Pets also provide a sense of purpose. Your pet loves you and depends on you. This makes people feel like they have someone to be there for and someone to be there for them. On days when it’s hard to get out of bed, knowing your pet needs you to get up and care for them provides motivation that can change you or your child’s perspective on the entire day.

A pet can be a great companion and teaching tool to provide structure. Before getting a pet, make sure to do your research to find out what option is best for you.

To learn more about the On Our SleevesTM movement to transform children's mental health, click here.

Featured Expert

Shari Uncapher
Behavioral Health

Shari Uncapher, MSW, LISW-S is a Big Lots Behavioral Health Services Director at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. In this role she provides leadership to intensive treatment programs in order to ensure the highest quality clinical care, program development and clinician satisfaction.

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700 Children’s® features the most current pediatric health care information and research from our pediatric experts – physicians and specialists who have seen it all. Many of them are parents and bring a special understanding to what our patients and families experience. If you have a child – or care for a child – 700 Children’s was created especially for you.