Some aspects of quarantine life are easy to adapt to, such as reduced commute times and having more time for hobbies. Other aspects of life affected by COVID-19 quarantining, like refraining from going out with friends and participating in social activities, can take a toll.
Fortunately, living with a pet helps to take the edge off of those adverse effects, and there are even studies to prove it. Here are four benefits of having a pet while social distancing.
Reduced anxiety and stress
Without knowing exactly how everything will play out, these uncertain times can cause a lot of stress and anxiety for many people. Fortunately, for all of us pet parents, having a feline or canine companion at our side can help combat these negative feelings. Studies have shown that pet parents experience lower levels of anxiety and depression after a traumatic event, compared to non-pet owners3. Other research has shown that interacting with a dog can reduce anxiety, stress, negative mood, and increase positive mood1 2.
Increased “feel-good” chemicals
Oxytocin, a hormone released by the pituitary gland and sometimes known as the “love hormone,” facilitates bonding and is linked to positive emotions. Studies have measured oxytocin levels in the brain, demonstrating that human-animal interaction leads to an increase of this hormone1 2 3. Simply spending time with your pet, whether it’s cuddling or petting them, can give you a boost of those warm feelings.
Whether or not you live with other humans, pets can help reduce the feelings of loneliness and social isolation as they provide steadfast companionship. Our pets are always there for us, regardless of our mood, and this unwavering support is priceless during difficult times.
Whether due to their innocent playfulness or pure clumsiness, pets are regularly making their pet parents laugh. A pilot study that examined the relationship between pet ownership and peoples’ laughter found that those with dogs or both cats and dogs reported laughing more frequently with their pets compared to those who only had cats4. Laughter absolutely can be a great medicine during times when we are feeling down.
Pets may boost our immunity
One of the best ways to fight off COVID-19 is to build and maintain a strong immune system. A pilot study by Rutgers University said pets may aid in the development of the human immune system. Researchers found that children aged three to six with pets showed lower rates of sickness, shorter duration of illness and fewer allergies than those without pets.5
- McConnell, A. R., Brown, C. M., Shoda, T. M., Stayton, L. E., & Martin, C. E. Friends with benefits: On the positive consequences of pet ownership. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
- Miller, Suzanne C., et al. “An examination of changes in oxytocin levels in men and women before and after interaction with a bonded dog.” Anthrozoös 22.1 (2009): 31-42.
- Odendaal, J. S. J. “Animal-assisted therapy—magic or medicine?” Journal of psychosomatic research 49.4 (2000): 275-280.
- Valeri, Robin Maria. “Tails of laughter: A pilot study examining the relationship between companion animal guardianship (pet ownership) and laughter.” Society & Animals 14.3 (2006): 275-293.
- Desai, Vidhi; Leung, Calvin; Lim, Ye Rin ; Fagan, Julie M. “Pets: Do They Enhance Our Immunity?”. Rutgers University.