Yorkshire Terrier sleeping on a couch with a woman. Original photo by Jep Gambardell, from Pexels

How Do Companion Animals Improve our Mental Health?

How Do Companion Animals Improve our Mental Health?

The short answer is, because they aren't humans. The long answer involves the human drive to control and not be judged.

Companion animals, dog to spider, provide a human caregiver the opportunity to nurture and control another being while simultaneously not being judged by that companion. Unless you chose a parrot. Then you'll be judged all day long. And if you chose a parrot that speaks, that bird will make it clear why you are hopeless. Everything in this food bowl is hopeless. The toys and employment opportunities you provided, human, are hopeless. Your parrot would leave if he could turn a doorknob properly.

Male Scarlet Macaw perched judging his human as wanting. Waiting for his treat and looking suspicious.
A cat won't take the time to explain your inability to impress anybody. They'll just leave the room. And they aren't going to check in on you, either. Until you're fast asleep for the night. Then he'll take the opportunity to wander your house knocking things over and mowing loud prayer requests to the cat gods.

Suspicious cat looking in judgement. Photo by skitterphoto, from Pexels.
Dogs don't judge. But they also don't listen well, and they eat other dog's poop at dog parks. Put a dog and a squirrel in a room with a warm marrow bone. No, don't do that. That's just mean. My point being, dogs are domesticated to the point of confused. They want to please their master but SQUIRREL!

Happy Labrador Retriever panting and playing. Photo by Amal Santhosh, for Pexels.
Rabbits are another matter. Rabbits don't judge. They are prey animals. They don't have time to invest in these matters. Rabbits cut to the chase. Forget the bedtime banana snack at your own peril. At three in the morning Leonidas Rabbit, our house rabbit, thumps mighty retributions that vibrate a two-story house. And I have no idea how he does it, but those reverberating rabbit thumps culminate under my side of the bed. Like some Cuban microwave attack.

Large lounging house bunny stretched out on a sofa with blankets. Photo by Lena Glukhova, from Pexels.
Guinea Pigs are pragmatic. They have to be, they too are prey animals. More importantly they are actors. Thespians driven to dig deep into their emotional stores of experiences for method acting. To deliver tonight's epic tragedy scene of opening refrigerator doors with no emotional closure to be found. Suspended expectations left unmet until scene four, Cheese Wrapper. Basil Exposition, thespian piggle, throws himself into the wall of his condo, slides down the wall using his face, wailing sufferings and loss. He rolls over and charges into center stage front, to deliver one line. A line of loss, pain, starvation, and death. A single elongated syllable. WEEEEEEEK! You can feel he hasn't eaten in seven minutes. He has no time to judge. He's dying. He wants that Oscar before he goes.

Shorthaired guinea pig begging for food in his cage. Photo by Anjie Qiu, from Pexels.

Reptiles get a bum rap. They're judging all the time. We miss their opinions because we are the ones applying the bum rap. Brumating reptiles judge in a brain fog of hibernation. Zombies wandering their enclosure long enough to check if their toes are still receiving signals. You've got one hundred mealworms gut loaded and ready for evisceration. But your leopard geckos are so stoned they just want to chill out, man. By the time they are coherent enough to eat, the mealworms are now pupae. Mealworm pupae are the universe's antonym for butterfly cocoon. Small. The color of puss. Military in armor shape. They have a hellish tail that wiggles in defense if they feel vibrations. A gecko will eat a pupa that wiggles. This leads to the bum rap.

Young Leopard Gecko going into a brumation period. Photo by David Bartus, from Pexels.
I've hit a rabbit trail.

Companion Animals support mental health for us because to care for and love an animal in your life, you will use empathy. You will exercise not selfish muscles. You will see immediate results in affirmations, returned love, devotion, and full acceptance. Homo Sapiens are less evolved than the rest of the animals.

Kathy LaFollett is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.


  • I Love rabbit trails… And Companion Animals. I Was Discussing Parrots As Emotional Support Animals With My Husband. When I take One Of Our Parrots On Errands I find That I don’t Get As Stressed Or Anxious As Other Times. I Have Struggled A Lot With Anxiety But When I Have My Companion With Me, My Focus Us On Them, Their Needs, Their Amusement… It’s Completely Different And Helps Me So Much.

    Dawn on

  • Your insights are on target, as always!

    Jonelle Pionegro on

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