Pets offer valuable companionship, but are they also beneficial to mental health and well-being? It is likely that pet owners already feel that way, but now a new research provides evidence of how even a little interaction with cats or dogs could be beneficial.

Pet Experiment

For a new study, researchers wanted to see whether animal visitation programs among university students are effective in promoting stress relief. To do so, the researchers recruited 249 college students and divided them into four separate groups.

In the first group, the participants were able to interact with cats and dogs for 10 minutes, while the second group was merely observing the interaction while waiting for their turn. A third group simply watched a slideshow of the animals, and the last group just sat in silence without their phones, reading materials, or any other stimuli.

Since cortisol is the hormone that the body releases in response to stress, the participants’ cortisol levels were collected in the morning upon waking and again 15 and 25 minutes after the 10-minute condition.

Stress Relief

Interestingly, researchers found that those who interacted with the cats and dogs had significantly lower cortisol levels after the 10-minute interaction regardless of whether their initial levels in the morning were high or low.

The result of the study is exciting because it showed how exposure to pets can momentarily reduce stress among students, especially given the fact that the interaction was just limited to 10 minutes. This is especially relevant not just because of the idea of having temporary stress relief, but researchers also note that the reduction of stress hormones may prove beneficial to mental and physical health over time.

Now, researchers are planning to conduct a four-week animal assisted stress prevention program to see whether the animals would help relieve stress.

The study is published in AERA Open.

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