How Pets Provide Comfort in Stressful Times

Woman Kissing Dog

By Dr. Veja Tillman

As everyone deals with the effects of COVID-19, one of the most important mitigation strategies is physical distancing: having people distance and isolate themselves to help prevent spread of the virus. This means that people are staying home and not going out for usual activities.

Everyday we are bombarded with warnings to “physically distance” ourselves from others, facts about the COVID virus, testing, a vaccine, the economy and more. This is a stressful time; how is the pandemic affecting your mental health?

Many people have reported feelings of loneliness and depression. To combat these feelings, people have decided to adopt a furry or feathery friend to keep them company. It is well documented that human health is positively affected by caring for a pet. Here are a few ways that pets can make physical distancing and these trying times more bearable.

Take your pet for a walk: This is a great way to get some fresh air, exercise and to greet your neighbors from a distance.

Share cuddles and snuggle time: While we may not be able to touch other humans during this time, your pets are safe as long as you are healthy. Hugging and snuggling with your pet not only feels good, but it releases “feel-good “ hormones that can help you to relax, reduce stress and anxiety.

Look to your pet for comic relief: Pets are naturally funny! Whether chasing each other (or even their own tails) or that little red light that just keeps disappearing (Laser pointer), pets are a great source for laughter. Laughing is a great way to relieve stress.

Enjoy chat time with your pets: Pets are good listeners, so chat it up with your pal. They may not have much good advise to offer, but they will listen and even sense your emotions and react with unconditional love and concern. Sometimes, just talking out loud can help you work out problems that have been weighing on your mind and causing you stress.

Remember, while enjoying extra time at home with your pets, it is important to continue to practice good hygiene. As always, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and/or use a hand sanitizer before and after touching your pet.

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