At Purina, we know that life is better with pets; from improved health to happier workplaces, there’s plenty of evidence to show that people and pets really are better together .

That’s why we’re supporting a movement to share the benefits they offer so more people can enjoy them. There are many benefits of having a pet - but don’t just take our word for it. We’ve collated research to show the scientifically proven advantages of sharing our lives with animals.

If you’ve ever noticed feeling calmer when you’re around your pets, you’re not alone. Several studies have shown that pet owners on average have lower resting blood pressure levels [1], and that a pet can help to prevent blood pressure from climbing during stressful situations.

Stroking and playing with dogs also lowers cortisol levels – the hormone responsible for stress [2].

The benefits of having a pet include helping your heart, as those with pets have lower resting heart rates and cholesterol levels [3] which suggests a more efficient, healthier heart on the whole. The physical aspect of pet ownership, such as walking your dog, also helps to keep you healthy.

The positive effects go beyond the physical – our mental wellbeing benefits too. Pet ownership improves our self-esteem, social skills and control. The elderly especially benefit from this, with 97% saying their pet helps their health and wellbeing [4].

1. Allen et al. 2002; Katcher et al., 1983, Allen, 2003, Virués-Ortega & Buela-Casal, 2006, Polheber and Matchock, 2014.
2. Friedmann et al., 1983; Odendaal, 2000; Barker et al., 2005; Handlin et al., 2011, Friedmann et al., 1983, Cole et al., 2007, Viau et al., 2010.
3. Anderson et al., 1992; Dembicki & Anderson, 1996; Lentino et al.,2012.
4. Hecht, McMillin and Silverman, 2001, Toohey et al., 2013, Allen, Blascovich and Mendes (2002); Enmarker et al. (2012); Kingwell, Lomdahl and Anderson (2001), Yarbroff, Trojano and Berrigan (2008).

As well as preventing some health problems, pets can help when treating them too. A 2015 study found that dogs can help to detect early signs of cancer [5], and Animal Assisted Therapy can improve both physical and psychological symptoms of degenerative conditions such as dementia [6].

The benefits of having a pet aren’t all physical. Interacting with animals can also alleviate mental health problems. If used during early stages, Animal Assisted Therapy can stop the development of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and alleviate mental distress [7]. It can even help make schizophrenia easier to manage – a serious condition that can be difficult to treat.

The positive treatment is thanks to the “feel good” hormone oxytocin, that’s released when we spend time with pets [8]. Therefore Animal Assisted Therapy could play a major part in the advancement of mental health care as we develop our understanding of this field.

5. Wills et al., 2011; Hinson, 2015.
6. Filan, 2006, Chu et al., 2009, Allen et al., 2001.
7. Yatzkar and Klein, 2009; Frijling et al., 2014.
8. Nagasawa et al., 2015, Odendaal, 2000 and Odendaal & Meintjes, 2003.

Owning a pet has extraordinary benefits for children, too. Children with dogs are more likely to reach their recommended amount of activity than those who don’t [9] – meaning it’s a fun way for you to stay fit as a family!

Children can also feel the benefits of having a pet in the home. Having a dog at home can also help decrease anxiety in children [10] and boost their social skills and self-confidence[11]. Spending time with a pet can also reduce the risk of children developing conditions including allergies and asthma [12], and improve symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder [13].

Families impacted by Autism Spectrum Disorder can also benefit from contact with pets [14]. A study showed that a dog in the home helped to calm children impacted by the disorder, and decreased stress for both the child and their family.

Animals are also instrumental in educating children about responsibility and care, and teaches them the foundations for love and respect in a way in an easily understood and relatable way.

9. Martin et al., 2015.
10. Gadomsk et al., 2015.
11. Paul and Serpell, 1996.
12. Fall et al., 2015.
13. Vagnoli et al., 2015.
14. Wright et al.’s (2015).

You can support the cause too


Our research has shown that our movement would have real, tangible benefits for all - from a calmer working environment, to healthier families. Read more about how Purina are committing to a future where people and pets are better together here.