May is National Pet Month: This is Your Brain on Kittens and Puppies
The month of May is National Pet Month, and is all about celebrating the benefits pets have to offer and encouraging people to adopt a pet of their own. We’ve talked about the benefits of pets in the past, but it’s time to dive a bit deeper to find out the significant brain benefits pet ownership can offer.
Benefit #1 – Reduces Stress
Interacting with stress can lower levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. Snuggling with a pet or simply petting one results in the release of oxytocin in the body, a chemical that naturally reduces stress.
Benefit #2 – Improves Mood and Overall Mental Health
Studies have shown that being in the presence of a dog results in the release of “feel good” neurotransmitters like dopamine, oxytocin, and serotonin. This improves mood and boosts overall mental health.
Benefit #3 – Decreases Stress
Pets may also help you overcome stress. One study showed that stress levels were lower in children who had a pet, and the same may be true for adults. The decrease in stress can also improve overall heart health.
Benefit #4 – The Brain Reacts Emotionally
Simply seeing a pet causes brain cells in the amygdala, the area of your brain associated with emotion, to activate. This emotional response that’s usually due to love and adoration for a pet also results in decreased stress, better sleep, and improved mental and brain health.
Benefit #5 – A Cat’s Purring Decreases the Sympathetic Response
The vibrations that are caused by a cat purring has been found to result in changes in brain activity. It’s possible for the brainwave frequency to become synchronized with the vibration of purring, resulting in relaxation. It may also decrease the sympathetic response (your fight or flight response), making it easier for you to relax.
Whether you choose a cat, a dog, or some other type of pet, having a pet offers many health and brain benefits. Stay tuned next week as you dive into some great ways to get more active with your pet.