In 2019–2020, a survey revealed that 67% of American families owned at least one pet, with the top two most common being cats and dogs. Given that these numbers have most likely risen in recent years, it is still astounding how most Americans have one as part of their family.
Feb. 20 marks National Love Your Pet Day, and for those of us who have animals, we know they increase the quality of our lives so astronomically that it is hard to imagine life without them. Owning pets has been linked to reduced stress, anxiety, and depression through increased serotonin and dopamine levels. They also help combat loneliness while encouraging a healthier lifestyle.
For children that grow up with pets, studies have shown that they tend to be more responsible. For older people, cuddle buddies have offered the perfect companionship. Regardless of your lifestyle, there is a creature out there that can match it perfectly.
Caring for animals is no small task. They require constant attention, love, and nourishment to thrive. If we don’t meet the needs of our pets, studies have shown that this can lead to mental and physical ailments.
Pets can actually experience their version of sadness and depression in some cases. Signs of depression amongst animals can include changes in demeanor and eating habits, increased sleep, and less interaction with owners.
Besides external factors such as environmental changes and boredom, a 2019 study showed how animals are extremely empathetic. In other words, our emotions affect our pet’s emotions.
Given all our pets do to improve our lives, we must remember that we have to do our very best for them. While they’re only part of a fraction of our life, we are their whole life.
Here are some ideas on how you can show your furry friends some extra love this National Love Your Pet Day:
- Take them on a walk. Most dogs need around 30–60 minutes of physical activity daily to maintain their physical health and help with energy levels.
- Set up a playdate at a local dog park. It’s important to allow your pets to socialize with other breeds.
- Get them new toys that stimulate their brains. Mental stimulation is just as important as physical stimulation for pets. Puzzles and interactive toys are great ways to get them to strengthen their mental states.
- Buy their favorite treats or try making a special homemade goody for them. Everyone loves to get something special. If you decide to make your pet a homemade snack, make sure you research safe foods beforehand.
- Turn on a movie and cuddle up on the couch. If you can’t get out or your pet does not need much outdoor time, spending time together inside is just as nice. The essential thing to remember is that you give your animal plenty of intentional one-on-one time.
- Pamper your pet with a spa day. Maintaining the hygiene of your pet is extremely beneficial to their overall health, and it is another opportunity for intentional one-on-one time together.
- Volunteer at your local shelter. Even if you don’t have a pet, you can still join in on the festivities. Whether donating to your local shelter or humane society or volunteering your time with these animals, each one will greatly appreciate the effort.