6 Surprising mental health benefits of pet ownership for employers

May 20, 2024

Mental Health Awareness Month is a great opportunity to dedicate some extra time to exploring new and innovative ways to improve our mental wellbeing. The focus on mental health is experiencing a critical moment in corporate culture – and it’s long overdue. From mental health days, to therapy apps and more, corporations are recognizing the importance of mental health in the workplace. However, one such method often overlooked in the realm of mental health involves our furry, feathered or finned friends. Pets, who are often seen as family members, play an essential role not only in our personal lives but also in enhancing our mental wellbeing. Understanding this profound impact of pets can be transformative, particularly in the area of mental health and especially as it relates to employee happiness at work

Pets & happiness hormones

It should come as no surprise that interacting with pets has a profound effect on our physiological states, significantly influencing our hormonal balance, which can enhance mood and reduce stress. Extensive research from John Hopkins has demonstrated that petting a dog can decrease levels of cortisol, the hormone associated with stress, while simultaneously boosting oxytocin. This hormone, pivotal for social bonding, increases during interactions between people and their dogs, significantly enhancing feelings of happiness and relaxation. Such biochemical response underscores the therapeutic value of pets in our daily lives. So the next time you see a coworker’s dog or cat appear in a zoom meeting – know that beyond their obvious cuteness, their presence brings a positive physiological impact to everyone.

Pets Reduce Loneliness

The digital age has led to a noticeable increase in loneliness and social isolation. The upside is that pets can play a pivotal role in alleviating these feelings. A comprehensive study conducted by the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) and Mars Petcare reveals a substantial 85% of respondents believe interactions with pets significantly reduces loneliness. Furthermore, 76% of those surveyed agree that these interactions are effective in combating social isolation. The study’s results underscore the vital role pets have in enhancing social connections and emotional health in our interconnected yet frequently isolated lives. 

Pets improve physical activity, increasing mental wellbeing

Physical activity is a well-known antidepressant, and pets serve as a catalyst for encouraging regular physical exercise. Studies from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) indicate that pet owners generally exhibit better physical health than non-pet owners, primarily due to increased physical activity. This connection is valuable as exercising regularly not only improves physical health but also contributes significantly to mental wellbeing by reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety. From the employer’s perspective, being inclusive of pets (see our pet-friendly office checklist) and encouraging pet ownership or pet-friendly workplaces is a worthwhile strategy to enhance the overall happiness and productivity of their workforce. 

Pets reduce anxiety and depression

Beyond physical health, pets are paramount in promoting emotional health and wellbeing. The NIH reports that companion animals substantially encourage better emotional states and decrease levels of anxiety and depression. Pets’ constant presence and companionship provides a scientifically validated form of emotional support, resulting in reduced feelings of anxiety and depression. We can infer that when employees are more relaxed on the job, they’re more likely to be engaged with their work and their fellow coworkers.

Pets facilitate social connections with others

Most people agree that there is a near-universal affection for pets in the U.S. And pets serve as a sort of “social glue,” helping us foster a feeling of connectedness and belonging in our communities across the nation. Dog parks are a great example of this social bond. Dog owners connect with other dog owners and form a connection where their pet is at the center of that feeling of connectedness and community. According to research from the American Psychological Association (APA), pets provide significant social support that helps reduce or buffer the effects of stress on health. Furthermore, pets often facilitate social interactions with others, serving as icebreakers in social settings, which can enhance our relationships and expand our social network. And today, with so many employees working in a hybrid or entirely remote environment, pets create a connection for employees who may be physically distanced. Pets add a sense of shared humanity and community through employees’ common love of pets.  

Pets can help with mindfulness

Interacting with pets provides more than just companionship, it also offers a valuable opportunity to engage in moments of mindfulness. Research from Harvard highlights the psychological advantages of interacting with pets, especially their role in fostering mindfulness. By focusing on the present moment, such as when petting a dog or simply observing a pet at play, people often experience a sense of mental clarity and peace. Pet parenthood not only enriches our daily lives, but it also enhances our mental well-being by promoting mindful moments to everyday life. 

Airvet, your 24/7 pet ally

Incorporating Airvet into an employee benefits package not only promotes pet wellness but also significantly boosts your employees’ mental wellbeing. By offering dependable, 24/7 access to veterinary care, Airvet ensures that both pets and pet parents are well-supported and cared for. When employees feel supported, it cultivates a healthier, happier and more engaged work atmosphere. Embrace your pet-loving workforce for Mental Health Awareness Month with mood-boosting benefits like pet telehealth. Ready to enhance your employees’ wellbeing with Airvet? Discover how our comprehensive 24/7 pet telehealth solution can benefit your organization – sign up today!


Source 1: John Hopkins 

Source 2: HABRI

Source 3: NIH

Source 4: NIH

Source 5: APA

Source 6: HarvardSource 7: Psychology Today