Why Pets Are Wonderful: National Pet Day

Posted by Gemma Henry - Content Lead on 28th Mar 2024

Why Pets Are Wonderful: National Pet Day

According to statistics, over half of households in the UK (57% in 2023) are pet owners (1). It probably won’t surprise you to hear that pet ownership skyrocketed by 22% between 2019 and 2022 (2) too, with this leap in ownership most likely connected to COVID-19. It’s little surprise that a nationwide lockdown had us all running to the pound. After all, pets are thought to help us feel less lonely, reducing feelings of isolation and helping us to feel that bit happier in general. Studies have even shown that the pandemic served to further strengthen the connection between pet ownership and a reduction in feelings of loneliness (3).

With National Pet Day just around the corner, we’re here to celebrate the wellbeing benefits that our furry, feathered, sleek and scaled friends, large and small, can bring.

Best Pets For Stress Relief

A dog and cat cuddled up together on the floor

Pets are proven stress relievers (4), with many aspects of ownership helping us to feel that bit better when times are tough. It’s just one of the reasons that some companies have started to introduce office pets (5). But what is the best pet for stress relief?

Dogs and your wellbeing

Think stress-busting pets and you probably think dogs. After all, dogs are faithful companions known for their loyalty and their obsessive love of their human companions. Dogs are also wildly social and their daily exercise needs encourage us humans to get out in the fresh air for the walks that are well known to aid mental wellbeing and reduce feeling of stress and anxiety (6). Those walks can lead to human friendships too. Not only that, but stroking Rover’s soft coat for just ten minutes has been proven to lower stress levels (7).

Stress-busting cats

They might have a reputation for being cold and aloof, but most cat owners will tell you that their feline friend is just as faithful as any pooch. Just like dogs, cats are shown to provide relief from loneliness and petting cats can reduce stress too (8). In addition, a cats purr could even have a have a healing effect. How? The specific frequency of a purr is thought to reduce breathing problems, one of the chief symptoms of panic and anxiety attacks (9). Though there is some debate around the ethics of putting cats on leashes, some of our furry friends appear to enjoy getting out in nature with us too, providing those same outdoorsy benefits as dogs.

Birds and fish for better health

They’re a little more difficult to hold in your hands, but both fish and birds have pretty special superpowers when it comes to stress relief. According to those in the know, simply watching these animals can help us to feel good. One study shows, for example, that people who watch birds from a window experience less anxiety and fewer depressive symptoms (10). Another tells us that observing fish going about their daily business can reduce anxious feelings and help us relax (11). It is worth bearing in mind, however, that though birds and fish make great pets, they can require a lot more care than many people realise, it’s therefore important to research thoroughly before introducing them into the home.

Pets and Anxiety: Could an Anxiety Dog For Humans Help You?

A dog looking into the camera lens while lying in the couch, in the background its owner is also lounging on the couch reading a book

While animals have long provided support for those with physical disabilities, there is increasing awareness of the benefits provided by emotional support animals.

Do you need a service dog or service cat for anxiety or a hidden disability?

Far beyond an everyday pet, an emotional support animal can be a vital part of a person’s treatment. Unlike guide dogs, who undergo rigorous training from puppyhood, emotional support animals don’t need to be trained, nor is one type of pet a better support animal than another. The benefits of a pet for emotional support is usually based in their presence alone, helping owners to experience reduced anxiety and stress and, in some cases, aiding confidence in specific triggering situations.

How to get a therapy cat for anxiety

Whether it’s anxiety, stress, depression or another emotional or psychological disability, you may find that a pet can help to alleviate some symptoms, reducing feelings of nervousness, stress and negativity. The great news is that there’s no need to buy a cat or dog (or ferret, rabbit or hamster) bred for this purpose. Any animal, including your existing pet, can be an emotional support animal and there’s no need to register them unless you find yourself in a situation in which a third party requires proof of your pet’s ESA status. Supporting those who have a companion cat or support dog for anxiety, UK based service https://www.esaorguk.com/ allows for registration, with an ID card issued to ESA owners. This card can help make travelling with your pet simpler and can give you peace of mind when dealing with landlords or organising university accommodation.

The right emotional support animal for you

If you don’t already own a pet but feel you might benefit from an emotional support animal, research is a must. While any animal (within reason) can be registered as an ESA, most people choose dogs or cats. Things to consider might include:

  • Breed. An excitable or demanding dog breed, such as a husky or collie, could exacerbate stress. Meanwhile affectionate cat breeds, like ragdolls or Siberians, might be preferable to independent British shorthairs or Norwegian forest cats
  • Care needs. All pets require a degree of care, even the smallest gerbils and stick insects. Consider whether you’ll be able to adequately meet their needs financially and practically, and whether pet care might exacerbate feelings of stress when you’re at a low ebb
  • Life span. Most dogs and cats will live to around 12 to 15 years of age, with some breeds and smaller animals having much shorter life spans. While you may not want to think about it now, it’s important to consider the effect the loss of a pet might have on your wellbeing down the line
  • Allergies. If you’re prone to allergies be sure to adequately test your tolerance before jumping into pet ownership feet first. Having to part with a pet that makes you poorly can be truly heart breaking

Animals and Your Family: Pets and Mental Wellbeing For All Ages

A cat and its female owner having a cuddle

For many people a family simply isn’t complete without a pet and we quite agree with that sentiment. Almost all of us benefit from the presence of animals, from the very youngest to the very oldest members of the clan.

Pets and children

If you have children you’ve almost certainly been begged for a pet by now. And if you haven’t we can assure you that it’s coming very soon. While it’s probably true that you, as a parent, will end up taking on the lion’s share of the work when it comes to pet ownership, there’s little doubt that pet keeping offers numerous benefits to your child. Many young pet owners enjoy the sense of companionship a pet can bring, with some even sharing secrets with their cat, dog or guinea pig. A dog, in particular, is great for exercise too and can help boost the confidence of shy, retiring types. In addition to teaching kids about responsibility and caring for others, owning a pet can be educational in other ways as well, with insects and reptiles proving particularly enlightening for curious young brains.

The best pets for kids: fish are easy to care for and require little space while small rodents like guinea pigs and hamsters are cute, fluffy and promote caring, calm behaviour. Rats are particularly good pets for children. Friendly and intelligent, their larger size makes them more interesting (and more robust) than smaller rodents.

Pets and older people

Animals can provide much needed companionship for elderly people, especially those who are living alone for the first time after the loss of a partner. They can also give retired owners a sense of purpose and provide the impetus needed to take gentle daily exercise. Many have reservations about pet owning, worrying about the mess caused by a cat or dog or about what might happen to a pet once they are no longer able to care for it. However, the benefits of pet ownership may, in many cases, far outweigh the negatives. That said, a pet should not be considered a quick fix for elders experiencing loneliness and isolation. Charities like The Cinnamon Trust provide support for older people and their pets, including assistance should an owner no longer be able to care for their animal.

The best pets for older people: independent yet engaging, cats are relatively easy to care for, giving elderly owners companionship without requiring too much effort for those with mobility issues. Smaller dogs that require only short walks can also be a good choice, giving owners a reason to get out and about. Older people may prefer to be paired with an older animal. Not only are cats and dogs of around seven years and up generally less boisterous, they can also be easier to care for, having settled into predictable habits.

Sharing Your Home and Your Bed With Pets: Our Top Tips

A dog's paws placed gently on it's owner's hands in a gesture of connection

Whether for stress relief, companionship, support or simply because you love ‘em, owning a pet is a great experience. If you’re sold on the idea, here are our top tips for new pet owners, from picking a pet to animal-proofing your home in readiness for their arrival.

Adopt, don’t shop

From pugs to Persians, with so many cute breeds out there it can be all too tempting to turn to a breeder when it comes to choosing your new pet. However, rescue charities such as the RSPCA, Battersea and Dogs Trust are facing a rehoming crisis (12) with the numbers of animals abandoned rising and rehoming numbers falling at the same time. Consider rehoming if you can and, if you do buy a pet privately ensure you’re dealing with a reputable breeder.

Insure, chip and vaccinate

Being a pet owner isn’t all fun, especially when the worst happens. Doing the boring stuff ahead of time can help protect you from stress and heartache later. Insurance, though an annoying regular expense, can help to ensure you’re able to pay vet bills should your pet become unwell, while a microchip can help you track down a lost pet. Though not cheap, regular vaccinations and spaying or neutering at a young age is the responsible choice, protecting your own pet and others from preventable disease and unwanted pregnancy.

A pet-friendly home

Whatever pet you choose to invite into your home, chances are you’ll have to make some adjustments to accommodate them. Not only are enrichment toys and activities important but you’ll also need to make a home safe for pets who don’t understand what’s edible and what’s about to result in a costly stomach pumping. With this in mind, keeping plants and human food, along with small swallowable items, cleaning products and electrical cables (we’re looking at you house bunnies!), out of your faithful friend’s reach is important. Even small animals that live in cages or tanks will need accommodations to be made, such as the correct room temperature and ambient light.

Sharing a bed with your pet

While some people are anti-bed sharing when it comes to animals, we love tucking in with our pets. In fact, research says that sharing a bed with a dog or cat is no more disruptive than sleeping with a fellow human (13). In fact, with their stress-busting qualities, there’s probably no better bedfellow than your favourite furry friend. If you do choose to encourage your pets up onto the bed, however, there are a few things you’ll want to bear in mind. Regular bed cleaning, for one, is even more important when pet dander and potential fleas are in the mix. And if you suffer with allergies, no amount of cleaning will help – in this situation, it really is advisable to keep your pet out of the bedroom.


  1. https://www.statista.com/statistics/308235/estimated-pet-ownership-in-the-united-kingdom-uk/
  2. https://www.statista.com/statistics/308235/estimated-pet-ownership-in-the-united-kingdom-uk/
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35816194/
  4. https://doc.woah.org/dyn/portal/digidoc.xhtml?statelessToken=Fi36RV9KuBDPJJm6CA3348rHHhD7osJ8z8-PLEIwygA=&actionMethod=dyn%2Fportal%2Fdigidoc.xhtml%3AdownloadAttachment.openStateless
  5. https://hbr.org/2023/11/research-the-benefits-of-a-pet-friendly-workplace
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8345809/
  7. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/2332858419852592
  8. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/2332858419852592
  9. https://medium.com/chilled-cat/the-healing-power-of-your-cats-purr-bbdb6b2642ca
  10. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/02/170225102113.htm
  11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6747257/
  12. https://www.rspca.org.uk/-/news-rescue-pet-crisis-continues-rspca-faces-largest-rehoming-challenge
  13. https://www.mayoclinicproceedings.org/article/S0025-6196(17)30486-X/abstract

Gemma Henry
Content Lead
Gemma finds sleep fascinating and describes the discovery aspect of her role as eye-opening. Her keen eye for detail and dedication to thorough research ensures that Bensons customers get the informative sleep-based advice they're looking for.
Read more from Gemma