People have known about the many benefits pets bring to humans for thousands of years. People first domesticated dogs around 30,000 years ago, and cats aligned themselves and eventually domesticated themselves with us (it was their decision, of course) around 10,000 years ago. Pet ownership has brought mutual gain to all parties for a very long time, and that’s still the case in the modern world.
Working from home has recently surged, with more than 17% of the American population now having a desk in their homes. That means that people and their pets are spending more time together. Read on to find out eight ways your pet can benefit your health when you work from home.
The 8 Health Benefits of Working from Home for Pet Owners
1. Decreased Stress Levels
It’s long been known that owning a pet decreases stress levels. People can benefit from having their pets around at any stage of their life; this is the same for those working hard from home.
Pet owners who work from home around their pets can lower their stress levels by just being around their pets, as one study shows.
The levels of cortisol, a hormone linked to stress, were lowered in participants of the study when they were around dogs, meaning that even if your dog were in the room with you as you worked, it would still have a positive effect on your health.
Another study looked at the levels of both cortisol and oxytocin, which is a hormone highly associated with relaxation and bonding (particularly between mother and child). The study found that oxytocin levels increased and cortisol levels decreased when the participants petted dogs. The more they petted the dogs, the more this effect was shown, so having your dog close enough to touch can release feel-good hormones and reduce stress.
2. Fewer Feelings of Isolation
Isolation is a widespread health issue that’s on the increase: it’s now known that 36% of all Americans report “serious loneliness” and that social isolation and loneliness dramatically increase the risks of suffering from several health issues:
With the rise of home working, there’s a real risk of these problems increasing. But having a pet around can lessen feelings of loneliness, possibly due to humans and their pets bonding on the same level humans and their children do.
Research has shown that pets are widely considered part of their families, which is why having them around when you’re working from home can be so beneficial.
3. More Exercise
Having a pet around when you’re working at your desk can help you to get more exercise. Home workers often spend a large portion of their day working at their desks. However, having an active pet, like a dog needing a walk or a cat meowing because they want to play, can help owners take regular breaks, stretch, and get out into the fresh air.
Dog ownership, in particular, can help people working from home to exercise more and improve their cardiovascular health, leading to longer lives and a happier experience working from home.
4. Better Mental Health
Working from home can negatively affect a person’s mental health, with many home workers stating that they find it harder to distance themselves from their work. Isolation and not socializing with colleagues are also linked to increases in depression, anxiety, and thoughts of suicide.
Interestingly, having a pet in the home when you’re working can decrease anxiety and depression as well as lessen loneliness, which can be a big help when you’re away from colleagues and group interactions.
5. Boosted Immunity
It sounds like something from a science fiction movie, but it’s true: having a pet around at home can actually boost your immune system. One study found that after petting a dog, the participants had significantly increased levels of an antibody (IgA) in their blood.
IgA is one of the key components of our immune system, and it’s been reported that cats and dogs help people produce different immune responses. People working from home can help themselves beat the winter blues by having their pets around, not only because the body’s immune system releases more IgA, but also by lowering stress levels.
6. Less Likelihood of Allergies
In the same vein as the last point, pets can reduce the likelihood of allergies. The phenomenon is well documented in children, but adults working from home can also benefit from sensitization to dogs and cats to help battle allergic reactions such as allergic rhinitis and asthma.
Admittedly, the effect is more prominent in children exposed to pets when they’re under a year old, but research shows that exposure to pets can also decrease the risk of skin allergies and other allergies in adults. This effect applies to indoor and outdoor allergens, so having your cat or dog around as you work can help minimize your spring hay fever.
7. Reduced Anxiety
The pressures people feel when working from home are similar to those felt at the office, like meeting deadlines, interpreting messages from your boss, and struggling with large workloads. This can be anxiety-inducing for some, but having your pet with you can help increase productivity and decrease feelings of anxiety.
This is because interactions with your pet can reduce cortisol levels and increase the feel-good hormone oxytocin, which can, in turn, boost confidence and relieve anxious thoughts.
8. Lowered Blood Pressure
The effect of pets on blood pressure is well documented. Petting a dog or a cat (and a cat’s purr) can lower blood pressure due to its relaxing effect on the owner. Having your dog sit beside you as you work, or coaxing your cat to sit purring on your lap, can prompt the body to do several things that lower blood pressure:
Together with the general increase in exercise pet owners get when working from home, this all results in significantly lower blood pressure and better heart health.
What Does Your Pet Get Out of It?
Pets can also reap the benefits of their owners not going to the office. Dogs and cats get to spend increased amounts of time with their owners, strengthening the bond between them. They get more attention, are generally exercised more, and have their needs met faster than when their owner went into the office.
These are all excellent benefits for your pets, and the work-from-home dynamic can often suit you both perfectly. However, there are sometimes downsides to this arrangement.
Are There Downsides to Having a Pet When Working From Home?
There are downsides to having a pet around when working from home, although they are generally less impactful than the benefits. Owners can quickly become distracted by their cat jumping on their keyboard or their dog howling to go for a walk. They can also inadvertently increase the potential for separation anxiety, particularly if working from home is only a temporary arrangement.
Studies after the pandemic have shown that 76% of dogs now experience separation anxiety in the US after 2021, as many dogs were raised around their owners all the time. The change from being around constantly to being alone for 8-plus hours a day can be jarring to pets.
Which Pet Is Best for A Working Person?
When working from home, the options you have when picking a pet to adopt are much broader than if you had to work in the office. For example, animals that usually don’t do as well when left alone for long periods can thrive when their owners are always around.
Cats are cuddly, loving, and affectionate pets who generally do better at being alone for extended periods than dogs. They’re small and easy to clean up after, plus they can entertain themselves while you’re working at your desk. Just don’t be surprised if they jump on your keyboard!
Small pets such as rodents or rabbits can also be good choices. Of course, they still require upkeep, interaction, toys, stimulation, and affection. But rats, for example, are crepuscular, meaning they’re more active at dawn and dusk, which is perfect for work-from-home hours.
Working from home can be more or less stressful for people, depending on their outlook. Owning a pet that can keep you company as you work is an excellent way to de-stress and improve your health, with some pets improving cardiovascular health dramatically. Of course, there can be some downsides to being around your pet 24/7, but they can be managed easily, and the benefits outweigh the disadvantages.
Featured Image Credit: nakaridore, Freepik