Pets have emerged as public health heroes

I’m no stranger to pandemic fatigue. After suffering through nearly a year of COVID-19 headlines (however urgent or necessary they might be), it’s probably safe to say that we’re all pretty weary of them by now. But if there’s one topic that I’ll never get tired of hearing about, it’s the lifesaving power of pets throughout this crisis 

If you’ve been a reader of mine for a while, then you already know what a boundless source of joy my rescue beagle Remington is in my life. And if you were to ask anyone with a beloved pet in their lives, they’re likely to tell you the exact same thing. 

But pets are also a boundless source of cuddles in your life. And in the age of coronavirus, they’ve emerged as public health heroes because of it 

The power of touch   

Researchers from the University of South Australia recently published a study in The Journal of Behavioural Economics for Policy urging governments to pay attention to the role that pets have played in the pandemic.  

Interviews with subjects showed that more than 90 percent were comforted and relaxed by touching their pets—a critically important benefit when human-to-human contact has been so limited.  

Pet owners noted that their dogs and cats would touch them when they were feeling distressed, sad, or traumatized—citing that their pets just seemed to know when they were struggling and needed to cuddle.   

And once again, we’re not just talking about dogs and cats here, either. This study noted the same reciprocal touch tendencies in birds, sheep, horses, and even reptiles.  

Why is this so important? It’s simple, really: Touch creates a physiological response in the body—one that’s crucial for growth and development, and one that’s especially important for reducing stress hormones like cortisol. 

Going without physical contact could prove dangerous—especially among people already isolated in hospitals, hospices, and nursing homes. But pets represent a safe and gratifying way to get this lifesaving touch, even with a deadly virus still circulating.  

Pets do a body good 

You may recall another study I shared back in August.  

For that analysis, researchers from the U.K. conducted a survey of 6,000 participants during the country’s lockdown period, lasting from late March to early June of 2020. Roughly 90 percent of respondents reported having at least one pet. 

And whether it was a dog, cat, guinea pig, or fish, that animal companion ended up providing a significant buffer against psychological stress. 

More than 90 percent of the survey’s respondents said that their pet helped them cope with the emotional fallout of lockdown. And nearly all of them said that their pet also helped keep them fit and active.  

Plus, the lower subjects scored in mental health at the beginning of the lockdown, the stronger their emotional bond was with their pet by the end of it. 

Bottom line: Pets are just plain good for your health—regardless of what’s happening in the world.  

In fact, there’s enough science on the benefits of pet ownership that I even devoted an entire feature to the subject in the December 2019 issue of my monthly newsletter, Logical Health Alternatives (“The surprising secret to living better, longer”) months before the pandemic even hit.  

Subscribers have access to that article and more in my archives. So if you haven’t already, consider this your semi-regular reminder to become a subscriber today!  


“Pets, touch and COVID-19: Why our furry friends are lifesavers.” Science Daily, 12/01/2020. (