The Best Pets for Stress Relief

Updated October 16, 2022
Playing with dog at home

You've probably heard of emotional support animals. These animals are highly trained to assist their owners with daily tasks. But you don't need a specially qualified animal to get simple stress relief. Many pets can help relieve anxiety and boost your overall happiness.

The relationship between people and animals is a strong one, and pets that help us reduce stress can really make a difference. Caring for a dog or cat can help you relax and stay centered in the present moment. Plus, furry friends are happy to be there whenever you need a listening ear.

The Best Pets to Help Relieve Stress

Are you considering getting a pet to help reduce your daily stress levels? Not sure which one to get? The best pet for you depends on your personal preferences. A 2019 study of dogs in the journal Animals showed that having any pet is a stress reducer. So you can consider a wide range of animals that might be helpful for you.


Dogs are loyal, loving, and like an animal best friend. The Animals study demonstrated that interaction with dogs helped relieve stress and anxiety among university students. Research different breeds before you invest. Consider the amount of activity that they need and health concerns for different breeds. You might also consider adopting a pet from a local shelter.


Cats are typically easy to own and will happily sit in your lap, lay on the couch next to you or cuddle with you in bed. Additionally, Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine pointed out that petting a dog or cat for just 10 minutes can be beneficial.


No room for a furry friend? A fish tank has a calming effect that can put your mind at ease. In fact, a 2019 study in PLoS One showed having a home aquarium was beneficial for relaxation, which can help with anxiety.


Riding or grooming horses can be a relaxing activity. There are actually therapy programs centered around relieving symptoms of anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder using horses. Additionally, a 2015 study in the Journal of Traumatic Stress showed therapy with horses reduced post-traumatic stress and increased mindfulness.


Birds will uplift your mood with their singing and active play. A study completed by the Natural History Museum found that hearing bird songs helps to relieve stress and fatigue.

How Pets Help Lower Stress

Animals play a big part in lowering symptoms of stress. The simplicity of caring for them can counter a high-stress lifestyle. There is nothing like having a cat or small dog sit with you and beg for your attention to keep you focused on the present. The following are a few additional ways that pets help people reduce stress:

  • Animals often make people more social, and pet owners tend to interact together.
  • Cuddling with a cat or small dog on your lap will help you feel loved and needed during lonely times.
  • Giving excellent care to family pets, such as grooming and spending quality time with them, contributes to a general sense of well-being.
  • Taking a dog for a walk or playing Frisbee helps you get exercise.

But if you are thinking about getting a pet, you'll want to make sure the experience won't increase your stress level. Owning a new pet is a lot of work, especially in the beginning. Dealing with a kitten or training a new puppy can be stressful in itself. So make sure you are prepared and have the resources to properly care for your pet. Also, owning a pet is a lifetime commitment, so if you're still unsure, wait to get a pet and try some alternatives to pet ownership.

Alternatives to Pet Ownership

Perhaps you are allergic to pets, travel often, or simply don't have time to give a pet the time and attention it needs. There are alternatives to actually owning a pet that can give you stress-reducing benefits.


Your local animal shelter likely uses volunteers to do things such as exercise and play with dogs, cuddle with cats, and interact with other small animals. This is a great way to spend time with furry friends without actually owning one.


Many nonprofits and animal shelters often need foster families to take care of sick, young, old, or needy animals for a short period of time. You can get a taste of pet ownership or simply help pets in need by fostering pets at your home until they are ready to be adopted.

Pet Therapy

Therapy animals typically visit hospitals, work in therapeutic settings, or assist the disabled. These pets are trained to behave in public and are a great way to comfort those people in need. Foster homes are also needed for therapy animals in training.

Whether you are a pet owner, have pets visit, work with pet therapy animals, or volunteer at an animal shelter, these are many examples of pets that help humans reduce stress levels. Both you and the pets benefit greatly, so this is a great stress reducer to implement.

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The Best Pets for Stress Relief