3 Ways To Get the Mental Health Benefits of Pet Ownership Without, Y’Know, Getting a Pet
There’s no better excuse for adopting a pet than “it’ll help me a survive a pandemic.” I assume this is why my neighborhood has been infiltrated by puppies—no complaints here—and people are adopting kittens by the litter. And yet, sometimes getting an animal for a pet isn’t a realistic option for those who have no time for the responsibility or strict landlords. Don’t worry though: a new study out of the University of York suggests you can still reap the mental health benefits of animals without fully committing to pet parenthood.
The study included 6,000 participants, around 90 percent of whom were pet owners, and found that an overwhelming amount of the pet owners were comforted by their animal companion during lockdown. This totally makes sense. But what’s interesting is that the human-animal bond didn’t significantly change whether it was a dog or, well, something that can be contained to a bowl or cage. Apparently tiny, low maintenance pets (your beta fish, your hamster, your guinea pig) are have some mental health perks as well.
The survey revealed something else interesting: The most the most popular, positive interacting with non-domesticated pets is bird watching, which explains why bird watching became such a thing early in quarantine, when morale was at record lows. As clinical psychologist Carla Marie Manly, PhD points out, research continues to show that interactions with animals can reduce stress, anxiety, and feelings of depression, and you don’t actually need to own an animal to get them.