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Do Pets Make Us Happier?

We live in a society where people spend billions of dollars annually on their pets, and according to the American Pet Products Association, 62% of U.S. households own a pet.

Clearly many people view their pets as a part of the family and more than merely a wild animal.

In my life I have always appreciated and loved our family dog and everyone in my immediate family holds their dog near and dear to their heart.

In my personal experience, dogs, and pets in general, bring joy, amusement and affection on a daily basis.

Having a pet in our lives can create wonderful memories and an attachment that is long lasting.

I am obviously biased toward dogs, and toward an affirmative yes with the title of this post. What about you? Is your experience with having pets full of positive emotion and affection?

It is possible that pets can actually improve peoples’ happiness, well-being and even physical health?

And if this is the case, how so, and what does it depend on?

As I recently lost a pet, these questions were particularly interesting to me, and fortunately I found an article in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (2011) that shed some insight on the impact of pets on our well-being.

According to the article, which presented a 3-part study exploring the positive consequences of pet ownership, “pets serve as important sources of social support, providing many positive psychological and physical benefits for their owners.”

The first study found that pet owners scored better on certain measures of well-being and individual differences. For instance, pet owners reported greater self-esteem, exercised more, were higher in conscientiousness and had less fearful attachment.

The second study offered further insight into the relational perspective of pet owners. Results revealed that pets can serve the social needs of their owners, and interestingly, pets served as a compliment to other relationships and functioned as social support alongside other general relationships.

Simply put, pets didn’t detract from everyday relationships – they added to them.

The third study revealed how pets can help stave off negativity related to rejection and loneliness. Participants were induced to experience feelings of isolation and loneliness, and those who simply thought about their pets reduced their feelings of rejection just as effectively as thinking of a close friend.

Overall, there is promising information for you pet lovers out there that pets really offer valuable companionship. This makes sense as pets offer us a non-judgmental support and unconditional love.

There are many animals out there that need a good home, so if you know someone who could use a furry friend, there is clearly reciprocal benefits for someone willing to care for a pet.


McConnell, A. R., Brown, C. M., Shoda, T. M., Stayton, L. E., & Martin, C. E. (2011). Friends With Benefits: On Positive Consequences of Pet Ownership. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 101 (6), 1239-1252.

Do Pets Make Us Happier?

Joe Wilner

Joe Wilner is a life coach, licensed clinical psychotherapist (LCP), and drummer from the band Yes You Are. He is also creator of You Have a Calling, a blog and online community helping people discover and pursue their life’s work and mission. Through deep and personalized coaching, he helps ambitious, creative, and spiritually minded individuals make a greater impact, grow as leaders, and design a soulful life they are inspired by.

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APA Reference
Wilner, J. (2012). Do Pets Make Us Happier?. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 29, 2020, from


Last updated: 29 Mar 2012
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