“They can be just as potent as anti-anxiety pills.”

Get a pet for mental health

As Thanksgiving nears, I’ve been paying extra attention to the things I am thankful for. My list is extremely easy to generate: my family and friends, my boyfriend, having a comfortable apartment, having a job, this blog, my health, my ability to exercise, all things chocolate, all things coffee… 🙂 My list goes on and on. And I’m truly grateful for each and every one of these things in my life.

But this Thanksgiving, I’m extra thankful for the companionship and health of my two pets.

A bit about them

Now I promise this post isn’t written to boast about my two furry children – I do have a point! But I think it’s important you know at least a little about them.

I have a cat and a dog. My cat’s name is Hiccup and he’s a 2.5 year old Persian (meaning it looks like he ran face-first into a wall and his nose forever has to suffer the consequences). He’s a feisty little thing, but is also so sweet and just plain adorable sometimes. My dog, Jaina, is around 1.5 years old and probably a beagle mix, but we’re not really sure. We adopted her from an animal shelter about 4 months ago and her skittish manner and slow-to-trust personality indicate she was probably mistreated before coming to us. Once she realized we were only around to provide belly rubs and to throw her favorite purple fuzzy ball, though, she revealed her happy, goofy nature.

So, needless to say, I love them a lot. As most people will say about their pets, they truly are my family.

Hiccup as a kitten

Hiccup as a kitten


So when my cat got really sick recently, and spent four nights in an emergency animal hospital, I got to see where my priorities lay.

I’m a very frugal person, often trying to save money wherever I can. But when I found my cat lethargic and vomiting (eventually diagnosed with a blocked bladder that would have killed him if untreated), all that flew right out the window. I would have done ANYTHING to keep that little guy alive. And thank goodness he’s back home now, sleeping on my head at night and meowing loudly for no reason just like he should be.

If you can afford them, I think all people should get pets. They can be just as potent as anti-anxiety pills and can provide you with more love than any medication will be able to.

Of course, you may have barriers to getting pets: allergies, apartment restrictions, cost, roommate disapproval, lack of time, job hours, frequent travel, etc. But. If you have been on the fence about getting one and don’t have these barriers in place, I think you should go looking for your new best friend.

Here’s why:


Health and friendship

Pets provide us with so many benefits. It’s actually pretty amazing.

Through studies they’ve been shown to lower stress, decrease loneliness (which makes perfect sense!), and even decrease blood pressure and cholesterol! Which I would say is kind of crazy – but think of therapy dogs! They go into hospitals and nursing homes, providing a happy and loving presence that brightens even the darkest of days. Apparently it’s a mutually beneficial relationship, as pets themselves have even been shown to obtain beneficial effects from their human relationships.


Getting active

Jaina with toy

While probably most noticeable with dogs, pets also provide us with more activity. While you may not want to work out on a given day, the need to walk your dog may provide more incentive to get out the door. Even playing with your cat can provide more activity than you would otherwise get sitting on the couch.

Personally, I try to walk my dog for at least 15 minutes after work. THEN I hit the gym. My dog is also a big fan of running, so sometimes we also go on runs together. While I do caution against ONLY walking your frequent “stop and sniff” dog for exercise, if you have a fast walker like my Jaina or still hit the gym afterwards, I think that walking your dog is a great supplement to your exercise.

In general, our pets provide us with a decent amount of extra activity – and that in itself is a great benefit of having them around.


Responsibility to others

My pets also provide me with a serious sense of responsibility. I don’t have children, but my pets certainly do rely on me. If I don’t feed them, who will? If I don’t walk my dog, who will? Cleaning my cat’s litter box? No one else is gonna do that! So it’s absolutely my responsibility to provide for them and give them the love and care they need.

It’s also nice to feel needed. Providing for someone else gives you a sense of purpose. It makes your day more meaningful. I love contributing to my animals’ welfare and look forward to them running to greet me when I get home. It’s a really good feeling!


Why I’m thankful

Even as I write this, my dog is asleep next to me on the couch, her head resting on my foot, and my cat is lying on the end of the recliner where my boyfriend is sitting. The two of them are such a calming presence and make our little apartment feel even more like home.

So whether you may get a pet or you already have one, take a minute to consider how they would/already do contribute to your happiness. I’m a big advocate for finding the right pet. When we adopted our dog, the shelter had matchmakers that ruled out several dogs we had originally thought would be a good fit until we found the right one. So take the time to look around and investigate. But once you do find that perfect pet, it’s like you’ve located a missing piece of your family – they are truly important parts of our lives to be grateful for.

So for all those animals in your life (or that could be in your life!) this holiday season, be sure to take a moment to feel grateful for them. I certainly know I will.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Why you should get a pet


For more healthy holiday inspiration, be sure to check out How to Eat Healthy During the Holidays