The Impact Of Pets On Human Psychology


The number of pets is constantly increasing around the world. In this report, we questioned the hypothesis that the presence of an animal can be favorable for human well being. This paper analyzes six published articles that report on results from research conducted on pet’s effects on human psychology. The articles were chosen from various subjects so as to have a wider perspective in the analysis. The three focus points of this paper are psychological well being, hospitalized children and the treatment of mental disorders. Pets have a significant role in daily activities and there is a growing interest for complementary therapies that involve pets in clinical practice. Therefore, the study not only focuses on the potential improvements in everyday life, but it also features the benefits of animal-assisted therapy for people suffering from mental disorders. In the light of these researches, it is confirmed that pets have a positive impact on human psychology. Considering these findings, the power of the company of an animal could be used as a stress relieving self-development method for everyone, including patients.


Pets are a major part of everyday life, therefore, their relationship with their owner is extremely significant. Ninety percent of pet owners consider their pet as a member of the family. Since adopting a pet leads to a life-long relationship, it is understandable that it has many long-term influences on the owner. The company of an animal can improve human health and psychological well-being, build confidence and self-esteem, and reduce stress. Most pet owners believe that their pet makes them happier. There is a term called ''Pet effect'' to interpret that living with a pet has a good impact on the mental and physical state of someone. In their study, Epley, Akalis, Waytz, and Cacioppo (2008) declare that people who feel lonely consider their pet as a source of support. Pets also seem to dismiss the frustration that social rejection causes. Moreover, pets, mainly dogs, can be trained for assistance. These trained animals are supporting patients and their families. Autism assistance dogs increase personal safety, outdoor access, and improve communication and social interaction skills when working with children. Studies done with parents of autistic children show that animal-assisted therapy help to reduce child anxiety and in the case of the absence of the pet, it is observed that the higher level of stress reappears. Autism is one of the examples of many disorders that pets can help and there are numerous researches that prove it.

Pets Impact on Psychological Well-being

First, we will examine the subject in a more individualistic approach. Krueger et al. (2012) conducted an experiment to decide whether the company of a dog can reduce mental distress after social exclusion. Fifty women and eighteen men (M = 22.67, SD = 2.24) were selected from the University of Munich. The assignment of the participants to one of the four conditions was randomly done. Their conditions determine their exclusion status (high vs. low) and whether they are in the presence of a dog or not. The participants were asked to play a multiplayer online game called ''Cyberball''. They were told that they were playing with two other people via the internet. The game consisted of 30 rounds. Participants in the inclusion conditions had the chance to play about 10 times, whereas participants in the exclusion conditions were only included in 2 rounds at the beginning of the game. After the game ended, the participants were left alone to answer a questionnaire to describe their emotions. Before the participant was done with the questionnaire, the experimenter returned to the room. In the half of the cases, she brought a dog along named ''Lilli''. The dog then stayed with the participant until the experiment was ended. The results indicated that the socially excluded participants gave lower ratings for self-esteem and feeling socially accepted if they were not accompanied by a dog. The results were alike when asked more general questions like how meaningful life is and whether they were satisfied with their lives. This experiment is a clear proof for the fact that s dog can help someone to feel more comfortable and accepted in the social environment. The company of a dog has a significant influence on someone's perception of social life. In this experiment, participants were introduced to the aforementioned dog for the first time, which means they didn't have a prior, developed relationship.

Even short-term interactions are remarkably advantageous. In order to explore the long-term permanent effects of pets, more matured and advanced pet-owner relationships should be observed. A stronger bond can have greater benefits for psychological development. A study was done with 206 pet owners composed of 167 women and 39 men between the ages of 18 to 76 (M = 32.15, SD = 9.26), 67% percent of the participants were dog owners and the rest were cat owners. Volunteer participants answered questions aimed to determine the level of their bond with their pets. They completed the 9-item Need Satisfaction Scale. This scale is useful to determine whether participants feel that their pet supports their autonomy, competence, and relatedness needs. The participants also reacted to the Mental Health Inventory which consists of 38 measures covering various aspects of emotional distress. In the results, it is visible that people who perceived their pets as supporters reported a higher level of well-being. The outcomes of this survey were examined according to self-determination theory. The study reveals that owning a pet is not only reducing stress but it is also effective in supporting all the basic autonomy, competence, and relatedness needs. Pet-ownership is positively related to being happier and having a healthier mentality.

Pets Impact on Hospitalized Children's Psychology

After realizing the influence of pets on psychology, it is reasonable to use it as a complementary treatment. Braun, Narveson, Pettingell, & Stangler (2011), investigates if animal-assisted therapy could be used as a pain relief method for children. In the study, there were 57 participants, 18 of them was a part of the intervention group and 39 were in the control group. The sample consisted of children at the ages of 3-17. Every child in the sample was supposed to be immunocompetent since they were going to be exposed to an animal. Only children who reported a pain level of two or higher out of 10 and were not fearful or allergic to dogs were able to join the study. The intervention group experienced a 15–20 minutes session with the AAT dog while the children in the control group were asked to sit quietly for 15minutes. Their pain level, blood pressure, pulse, and respiratory rate were measured. The children were also asked to point to the face that shows how much they hurt on the measuring scale that matches with a pain level, for example, if the face is smiling it means zero pain if the face is crying it means the worst pain. At the end of the study, the benefits of AAT were strongly proven. Pain reduction was four times greater in the children use AAT as compared to those who don’t. Minimizing the difficulties of hospitalized children is a significant success. In addition to playing a role in self-development, pets are effective in reducing the pain of children.

Apart from the physical pain, it was also proven that pet dog ownership is delivering long-term improvements to the lives of children with autism. A group was formed of 37 volunteer families via Dogs for the Disabled’s PAWS (Parents Autism Workshops and Support) network. They were separated into two categories: the intervention group who got a pet dog (n=22) and the control group who don't own a pet (n=15). The participants responded to two main interviews: FAM-III-General Scale and the Parenting Stress Index-Short Form. The first was done to assess the effectiveness of the family functioning and it was repeated for 2.61 years, the second was used to measure the stress levels of the parents and it was updated for 2.71 years. While comparing the intervention and control group in family functioning, a remarkable number of people exhibited lower rates in the intervention group compared to the control group, reflecting that the family bond was getting stronger and the challenges were getting easier. The amount in percent decrease in the intervention group was greater than the control group by 35% for Parental Distress, 97% for Parent-Child Dysfunctional Interactions, 50% for Difficult Child, and 59% for Total Stress. Since these data includes parents, it is confirmed that these benefits are not simply on an individualistic level, they are also influencing the happiness of an entire family. Based on researches, animals could help to diminish some of the challenges for children with illnesses and also support their parents to lessen their stress level. Since the treatment of hospitalized children is an urgent issue, it is vital to acknowledge what pets can offer them.

Pets Impact on Treatments of People with Mental Disorders

The advantages of animal-assisted therapy method for patients with a psychiatric diagnosis were also reported. Allori, Galeotti, Martino, Stefanini, & Tani (2015), compared the consequences of Animal-Assisted Therapy with standard treatment in adolescents admitted to the psychiatry hospital for acute mental disorders. Thirty-three participants with a psychiatric diagnosis, aged from 11 to 17 years old were recruited. Patients were rejected if they had fear or allergies to animals or were going to leave the hospital after a very short period. The participants were divided into two groups of 17 people: the treatment and the control group. The study was conducted in weekly sessions for about 3 months. There were 4 main analysis sections: Global functioning, the format of hospital care, ordinary school attendance and observation of AAT. According to the results, there were notable variations between the treatment and control groups after the study, especially there was a major increase in the frequency of school attendance, the extent of the recovery made in the hospital and global functioning in the treatment group. Apart from the therapeutic side, it was also notable that adolescents who interacted with pets began to display more socialized behaviors with adults and peers.

Interacting with a pet has positive clinical outcomes for adolescents diagnosed with mental disorders. These results apply to middle-aged schizophrenic patients who live in a social institution as well. In Hungary, patients who have a score of 39 or more on the Scale for the Assesment of Negative Symptoms (SANS), continuance of disorder of more than 10 years, signed informed consent. The investigated group were formed of seven patients consisted of four women and three men who had an average age of 43.6 years. Animal-assisted therapy sessions were weekly achieved for a nine-month period. Each session lasted for 50 minutes. Sessions started with the dog wandering around the patients while they can discuss their thoughts with the hospital staff. It continued with simple or complex activities with the dog which improved the patient's affective reactivity, speech and concentration ability. After some sessions, it was observable that despite their lack of continuity in regular daily activities, the patients were motivated to participate in AATs thanks to their bond with the dog. The patients also acknowledged the needs of another living being by grooming and feeding the dog. So, an animal has a rehabilitative impact on middle-aged schizophrenic patients as well as other positive effects. Animal-assisted therapy should be a common method to rehabilitate patients with mental disorders since it has various individual and societal benefits. Age is not a criterion for AAT, it is helpful for everyone of every age.


Based on the findings, we know that pet ownership is advantageous for personal growth and well-being. It could be a part of the solution for some of the problems of hospitalized children and their families. It can help children with autism to adapt to the daily life of society when they grow up. And animal-assisted therapy has various benefits for people of any age who has mental disorders. An animal-assisted therapy method should be designed in a more systematic way. If it becomes a more common method, the outcomes could be used to adjust the therapy. The awareness about the power of the relationship with a pet and how they can improve people’s well-being should be raised. Basic activities with pets which anyone could add their everyday lives that help reduce the stress should be promoted. Pets are already a huge part of human life. Acknowledging their significant impacts on psychology can be the key to development. If pet-ownership and animal-assisted therapies are encouraged, a lot of people could be happier while giving shelter, food, and love to an animal.


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14 May 2021
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