If you’ve ever had a cat or dog in your home, then you know the simple, indescribable feeling of coming home to a furry friend who loves you just for being you.

This is why Pawster Nashville works to keep pets and their owners together through crisis.

But you don’t have to make the long-term commitment of rescuing, adopting or buying a pet to experience the simple joy of coming home to those cuddles, face-licks and tail-wags.

Fostering pets is a fun and flexible way to volunteer, and it can help you stay healthy and happy through hard times.

Ready to foster a cat or dog? Sign up here.

Still not convinced? Here are 5 ways that a pet can benefit your mental, physical and emotional health:

1. Pets lower blood pressure

Dog getting a belly rub

Overall, people with pets tend to have lower blood pressure than those without. In fact, one study found that when people with borderline hypertension adopted dogs from a shelter, their blood pressure declined significantly over the next five months.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pet ownership can help decrease blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and triglyceride levels. Heart attack patients with pets even live longer than those without.

In a time when simply reading the news can cause anybody’s blood pressure to soar, we need the companionship of cats and dogs more than ever.

2. Pets Help Children with ADHD and Those on the Autism Spectrum

Boy with dog in field

Children with ADHD are increasingly being prescribed pets as a way of helping them learn to manage their ADHD. Because pets require regular feeding, walks, bathroom breaks, and grooming, learning how to care for a pet helps children learn to schedule and plan ahead. The unconditional love of a pet also helps children with ADHD, as it can be easy to internalize the frustration of others – the cat or dog will never be upset that someone wants to pay them more attention! Not to mention that playing with animals is a great way to burn off excess energy.

In a different way, pets help children and adults on the autism spectrum. According to the Mental Health Foundation,

“Sensory issues are common among children with autism. Sensory integration activities are designed to help them get used to the way something feels against their skin or how it smells or sounds. Dogs and horses have both been used for this purpose. Children with autism often find it calming to work with animals.

It has been claimed that in the case of people with autism, animals can reduce stereotyped behavior, lessen sensory sensitivity, and increase the desire and ability to connect socially with others.”

Many times, when a family fosters a cat or dog, children are some of the best caretakers!

3. Pets Help People Living with Depression

Overall, pet owners are less likely to suffer from depression than those without pets. There may be many reasons for this correlation, but some of them include:

Puppy sleeping in arms
  • Pets help ease feelings of loneliness – all the more prevalent now, in the age of social distancing, quarantine and isolation.
  • Interacting with a dog reduces levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, and increases the release of oxytocin – a natural mood-boosting chemical.
  • Pets provide the sort of motivation needed to get outside, with all of the benefits that includes, from increased Vitamin D to simply getting some exercise and blood-flow.
  • Caring for a pet gives you a sense of purpose and reward, and a sense that you are valuable and needed. Because you are.

4. Pets Motivate Us to Get Off Our Screens

Cat laying on computer

If you are alive today, you have probably experienced the phenomenon of “Zoom Fatigue.” When both our work and social lives require us to sit in front of a computer screen, we need a reason to get away from our screens more than ever. Dogs require regular walks, play time and training. In fact, experts recommend training, scent games, or other “thinking” activities as part of a dog’s daily routine. Just fifteen minutes of mental stimulation makes dogs happier and better behaved than a thirty minute walk.

But let’s not leave cats out of the equation! Here are five activities you can do with your foster cat, from making a homemade obstacle course to playing hide-and-seek with a stuffed animal.

5. Pets Help Us Connect with Other People

Two girls walking dogs in a park

Let’s face it – we are starved for social connection these days. Having a pet around gives us a reason to connect with other people. Walking a dog is a great way to have safe, socially-distanced human interaction with your neighbors. Need an excuse to see your friends? Arrange an outdoor play date in a backyard!

Feeling out of practice with the whole “talking to other human beings” thing? Cats and dogs provide endless fodder for conversation, even over the phone or video call. And they seem to have a sixth sense for filling awkward silences with the perfectly-timed bark or creepy stalk across the screen.

And just in case you need it, here are 102 more benefits of having a dog.

If you are ready to bring a cat or dog into your home for a foster stay, then go ahead and become a Pawster Foster here!

Not quite ready? That’s okay. Here are a few other ways you can make a difference:

1. You can give to help other people foster cats and dogs until their owners are back on their feet.

2. You can also volunteer in other ways, like transporting pets to vet appointments.

3. Sign up to learn more about how Pawster Nashville helps pets and owners stay together through crisis.

4. Share this post with 5 friends and tell them why you think they might want to become a part of the Pawster Nashville family.