From scrolling through sausage dog Instagram accounts to cooing over puppies in the park to cuddling with a cat, there’s no denying that our pets make us incredibly happy.
But other than their overwhelming cuteness, why do our pets provide such a mood boost when we’re feeling low?
“Pets are uncompromising and can give an enormous source of comfort,” relationship expert Anna Williamson explains. “In fact, pets are proven to be incredibly beneficial for reducing anxiety and low mood.”
Our furry friends can boost dopamine and oxytocin, plus, as Anna says, they’re fluffy and lovely and they give unconditional affection.
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Read on for all the reasons our pets can make us happy…
1. The bond between pet and owner is heart-warming
“Owning a pet creates an incredible bond between the animal and their owner,” explains Rebecca Wigley-Smith, qualified veterinary nurse at ManyPets. “The love and affection offered in return is almost unparalleled and provides owners a rare and privileged comfort.”
2. Pets can soothe anxiety
“Animals are often incredibly relaxing creatures to have around the house, puppies and kittens aside,” says Rebecca. “Pets can often offer a sense of peace and tranquillity when the everyday stresses of life become too much.
“Pets can intuitively sense when their owner is feeling stressed or anxious and will tap into this to offer comfort, love and affection, potentially beyond that of a fellow human. The companionship, loyalty and devotion a pet can offer is so strong that this can often alleviate the symptoms of anxiety,” Rebecca explains.
“But while pets are intuitive, they don’t get bogged down by human-specific problems,” Rebecca adds. “As an owner, you might be feeling down about something that’s happened at work and your animal will comfort you without question, which can help you to forget what it was you were feeling down about.”
Rebecca adds that there are also a vast array of medical assistant animals and organisations that provide pets to be used as therapy animals to help enhance the wellbeing and health of those who need it, proving that even professionals rate the supportive nature of pets.
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3. Pets are part of the family
“Pets truly become a part of the family, in almost all cases they are incredibly loving and make for wonderful companions,” says Rebecca. “It’s human nature to become attached to such loyalty and this in turn offers a wealth of comfort – pets are often the final puzzle piece to many loving families.”
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Which pet is the most comforting?
If you don’t have a pet but are seeking the love that they give, you might be wondering which pet is the most comforting – but it’s more about the relationship you have with your fluffy friend than the animal itself.
“No one pet offers more comfort than another,” confirms Rebecca. “Ask a dog owner and they would of course say a dog, then ask a cat or a rabbit owner and they’d say their pet.
“Many pets have a varying degree of intuitive senses and these can lend themselves to picking up on the owner’s emotions and helping calm or relax them when needed.
“Animals really are quite amazing,” Rebecca continues. “They always seem to know what you need, when you need it.”
Read on for eight heartwarming stories of people whose pets made them happier.
Sophie and Bella: ‘Bella helped me through a horrible breakup’
“I went through a terrible unexpected breakup, and my cat Bella made all the difference,” says PR director Sophie Lowe
“I had moved away from my family, so when my ex moved out very suddenly, I felt totally alone. I found myself avoiding going home and spending my evenings out with friends and then be up and out early for work the next morning.
“I remember crying over the Christmas holidays after spending so much time with my family about not wanting to go back to my house on my own. Luckily for me, the year before I had bought my British Shorthair Bella, and she was the only thing that made me go back to that house.
“She was a little presence there all the time, waiting for me to come home and she’d sleep with me in bed every night. I felt so relieved coming in the door when I saw her sitting on the stairs for me.
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“Bella was also there for me when she gave birth to my son Albie two months early. While he was still in hospital, I had to pump milk every three hours, so I’d be up through the night, still healing from my emergency C-section, pumping my milk and pining for my newborn.
“Every time the alarm went off in the night for me to turn the pump on, I’d hear a bang from Bella jumping down from her bed and heading straight to my side. She’d stay there for the whole time, before heading back to her bed when it was time for me to sleep again.”
Kate and Gus: ‘Gus helped distract me from unbearable grief’
“I got my cat Gus in November 2023, a few days after my cat Simba passed away. It was WAY too soon, but the grief was so unbearable that it was the only way I could distract myself from it. I forced my husband to drive to the rehoming centre to ‘take a look’ at a cat I had found online. Gus was the only cat we visited and we left with him the very same day.
“Simba had been such a huge part of my life for five years, and we had spent thousands of pounds trying to cure him of his rare form of kidney disease. He was only six when he passed. I got Simba shortly after moving in with my now husband and it was such a happy, bonding experience – he was more like our child than our pet – so I definitely knew I wanted another cat to fill the void.
“Hyperactive Gus’ personality is so different from sweet, shy Simba that it feels totally different this time around, and it’s what makes me so happy about him.
“He’s totally mad. He is always happy to see me, tries to follow me to work, greets me at the door, throws himself in front of me for belly rubs and rolls around on my desk while I’m trying to work. He’s very needy and loves me unconditionally – I would say he’s more like a dog than a cat!
“He’s a creature of habit and always takes himself off to bed early. I’m home alone a lot due to my husband’s job and Gus helps me feel safe and relaxed at night when he’s curled up on my feet.”
Francesca and Freddie: ‘Freddie makes me smile in my bleakest moments’
“Freddie joined my family in 2014. My dad had retired a couple of years before and our family had also suffered a big bereavement, so my parents had the idea of getting a dog. They told me on a Friday night and I cried until Sunday. We found a litter of cockapoos online and drove to see them. All the way there, my parents said to my sister and I ‘don’t get excited because we won’t get the first one, we see’.
“We walked in and a cute little fluffball with a white front and streak on his back stumbled up to us and he was ours. We wanted to name him after someone we all liked and on the way home from picking him up a couple of weeks later, he calmed down listening to ;Radio Gaga by Queen. At that moment, he was named Freddie Mercury.
“I was so grateful to him during lockdown especially, as he was a huge distraction and a reason to get out of the house and not turn into a depressed hermit. Whatever we felt, whatever was going on, whoever we were missing, he needed a walk! That helped us more than he can ever understand.
“I suffer from some mental and physical health issues and Freddie is incredibly intuitive and always knows when I need comfort. He’s a licky dog but he’s not a huge cuddler, but when he knows I need it, he smothers me with cuddles and love.
“It sounds silly, but he’s also so funny! His little head tilts when he hears the word ‘banana’ in hopes of getting a slice, he loves to sit on our local station platform and watch the trains, and he greets me every morning with a sock in his mouth. His weird and wonderful ways have made me smile in some of my bleakest moments.
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“The best thing has been seeing my nephew grow up with a dog. As much as Freddie has separation anxiety and is super cautious of babies throwing their limbs about, now my nephew is five years old, he rounds him up in the park to make sure he doesn’t run too far, give him kisses and does all his little tricks for him. Seeing them have lovely moments together creates beautiful memories every time and always brings tears to my eyes.
“I can’t remember what life was like before Freddie/Freddles/Fred/Freddiepants. I definitely didn’t think or talk about poo as much! As much as I’s always wanted a dog, I didn’t know the extent at how much he would take over our lives. It’s a huge commitment but one I’m so glad we made. He is an absolute godsend.”
Katherine and Sanco: ‘Sancho healed my broken heart’
“Sancho is the literal love of my life (sorry husband, but you know it’s true!) We got him on my son’s ninth birthday, February 24, 2021. Evan has been obsessed with pugs since he discovered Doug the Pug’s YouTube channel, aged four, and has wanted one ever since. When we had to say goodbye to our last dog, Daniela, in 2019, my heart was broken and I said ‘no more dogs’ but we felt the time was right. Sancho quickly healed my broken heart.
“I just have to look at Sancho and I feel my serotonin rise. I’ve never had a pug before, and I can’t believe how loving they are. He follows me around everywhere and as soon as I sit down, he jumps on my knee.
“I call him the ‘cat dog’ – He’s always after cuddles and kisses. Literally, just the thought of him makes me happy. I’m obsessed with him – he even has his own Instagram. If I’ve had a hard day, snuggles with my pug are all I need to lift my spirit.”
Andrea and Monkey: ‘Monkey keeps me company when I’m lonely’
“We got Monkey in October last year, he was seven weeks old and I went all the way up to York from London to pick him up.
“I grew up with dogs and cats in my house back in Venezuela. We had a golden retriever, a rottweiler, a poodle and a cat! I’ve always loved having animals around and I always said when I had my own house I would get a dog. I wanted a big one, but I live in a flat so it’s better to have a smaller-sized dog.
“Since moving to London, my husband and I don’t have family or friends around, so we are alone most of the time – and Monkey is great company.
“He has the cutest face and makes me so happy when I see him. He follows me around everywhere and always loves to be with us. Taking him on long walks, playing at the park, or taking him to the beach makes him so happy and that makes me smile.
“He is always full of love and energy, so even if I am sad or tired he makes me smile. Getting home from a long day at the office or from running errands he is always there so excited to see me (even if I just went downstairs to throw the rubbish away)
“Also, when my husband is away for work for a couple of nights I have Monkey around to keep me company.”
Katy and Boycie: ‘Boycie forces me to switch off when I’m stressed’
“Boycie, our border terrier puppy joined the family in May, he is now around five months old.
“I had always wanted a pet but it never felt like the right time and it is a big responsibility. My partner’s mum has a border terrier (Boycie’s brother) and I completely fell in love – we looked after him all the time but it was always sad having to hand him back over, so we decided – especially now we’re both able to work from home throughout the week, it was the perfect time to get our own dog.
“The cuddles with Boycie are by far the best, I didn’t realise how much happiness having a dog would bring into my life but it really has bought so much joy.
“It definitely lowers my stress levels and forces me to get outside each day. I’m excited to take him to the beach and go on new adventures together. Everyone is also way more friendly when you have a dog, it just makes everyone smile – we always get so much attention, it’s like going for a walk with a film star.
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“I think dogs can encourage you to be healthier in others areas of your life too; they encourage you to get out and go for that walk you’d normally put off, or have a bit of time to switch off when you’re playing with them. Also, the love you receive when you walk through the door, even if you had only left for all of ten minutes is the best feeling!”
Yasmin and Chilli: ‘Chilli eases my anxiety every day’
“Working at home alone, I’d begun to feel very lonesome. I was spending way too much time on my own – which isn’t good for someone who lives with anxiety,” shares influencer Yasmin El-Saie.
“I had too much space and struggled to feel relaxed. I longed for someone to cuddle with and interact with, so my life completely changed when I got my dog, Chilli.
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“Chilli has anxiety too, so he needs me to support him when we go out and about. This forces me to look at my own state of being and encourages me to be more relaxed in order to help him.
“No matter how I feel, I have to pull myself together to walk him and my other dog Sukhi. I have feed them, groom them and generally take care of them.
“This is a real blessing. Having partners in crime who always wants to be with you, wake by your side, go to bed with you, stare lovingly at you and welcome you home as though you’ve been gone for ages is the biggest happiness boost.
“Being with my dogs is like having lovebugs shower me with joy, fun and gratitude 24/7.”
Tracey and Martha: ‘Martha helps me manage my MS’
“My assistant dog Martha is the world to me, I can’t imagine life without her. On the rare occasions we’re apart it feels like I’ve lost a limb. I’m lost without her by my side.”
“My world is getting more and more difficult due to MS, but Martha doesn’t know I’m disabled and helping me is a game to her, picking up the endless things I drop. She’s like an extra limb, doing things without being asked much of the time. But she also helps me feel happier, without ever meaning to.
“She needs walking and even if I’m having a down day, she brings me my shoes and looks at me with a ‘we ARE going out, aren’t we?’ expression, which means suddenly we’re in the fresh air, talking to people.
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“She lifts me up, even when I want to curl up and shut the world out. Before you know it my world’s a better place again thanks to her.”
“She takes the laundry to the washing machine, empties the washing machine, fetches the post, gets things off supermarket shelves and picks up endless things I drop, and even opens and closes doors for me
“MS has restricted me so much nowadays, but Martha keeps me going. She keeps me smiling and I focus on her rather than the restrictive fist that keeps me in a wheelchair all the time.”
Read more mood-boosting stories on our HELLO! Happiness hub