Do Pets Really Relieve Stress?

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It’s the great debate in our household. Are the pets creating stress, or relieving stress? My answer? It’s a little of both.

We have three cats and two dogs, and are considering adopting a third dog. If that happens, it means each species will outnumber the humans! Our cats are each three years old each and our dogs are 12 years old and eight months old. The 12-year-old is delightful, totally well-behaved, trained, relaxed, easy-going, “chill” (despite the arthritis that has slowed him down considerably). We are so proud. Remembering how he was when he was a puppy, we feel we’ve accomplished quite a remarkable feat. The 8-month-old we lovingly call “Devil Dog”.  He’s also delightful, but he can cause a lot of stress when he digs a hole in the back yard, chews on furniture, swallows things he should not (only to hurl them up later!), and chases the cats who, I truly believe, taunt him.  We find ourselves counting to ten and taking deep, cleansing breaths — a lot.

It’s a well-known fact that petting a cat or dog can lower blood pressure. Cuddling with said animal produces oxytocin, the feel-good hormone generally reserved for mommies and their babies. Walking your dog gives both human and canine daily exercise. These factors lower stress and stress hormones. What pet parent doesn’t love coming home to those wonderful nightly greetings after a hard day at the office? Can you look into those big, brown eyes and not fall hopelessly in love? Many of us allow our pets to sleep in bed with us, and that comfort and cuddle during the overnight hours can soothe many a nightmare or insomnia-plagued individual.

Once you get through the puppy phase, your dog will likely end up a great companion like our 12-year-old. A source of comfort, happiness, joy and unconditional love with beautiful eyes, a shiny, white smile, and a thumping tail. Yes, a stress-buster.

K.S. Mueller is a travel executive living in Massachusetts who writes essays about dogs, cats and other topics in her spare time. Check out her web sites:; and Follow K.S.Mueller on Facebook and Twitter.

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