3 ways that pets can improve cognitive health for older adults

Whether you’re a cat or a dog person, here’s some good news! A recent study shows that owning pets can improve cognitive health for adults over the age of 65. 

A few factors that can contribute to cognitive decline are stress levels, isolation, and physical inactivity. Pets can potentially counteract these factors!

pets cognitive health

Lower stress

Chronic high levels of stress may contribute to other conditions such as anxiety, depression, a weakened immune system, and even issues with memory. There is a possible link between stress and the development of dementia. The good news is, the right pet may reduce stress levels. Studies have shown that interacting with an animal can reduce cortisol levels for a more stable mood. They may even decrease blood pressure through their comforting presence. Even a low-maintenance pet like a fish can provide feelings of calm.

Of course, some pets can be stressful. For example, a young and highly energetic puppy may chew on things it’s not supposed to or want to play more than its owner has the energy for. So, seniors who are considering adopting a pet should assess what kind of pet will work best for their lifestyle. If it’s a good fit, the pet should provide companionship and comfort rather than feelings of stress.

Counteract loneliness

Adults who experience feelings of isolation and loneliness are more prone to develop dementia as they get older. As most pet owners will tell you, dogs and cats are amazing at buffering these feelings.

Pets are great at providing companionship. When you have a dog or cat snuggling up to you or encouraging you to play with them, daily life at home can feel more fun and less lonely. 

Encourage daily movement

Being physically active may decrease the risk of developing dementia. Another benefit of pet ownership is that caring for a pet requires some daily movement. This usually includes tasks like feeding and cleaning up after the pet, and playing with them. Dogs are particularly helpful for getting their owners moving since they require multiple trips outside during the day. This provides a great excuse to go for a walk!

The study found that those who were long-term pet owners were better protected from cognitive decline than pet owners who just adopted a pet recently. Once a pet is in your life for a few years, and you get into a routine of caring for them, it seems that the cognitive benefits become more apparent.


Further research is needed to determine the relationship between pet ownership and cognitive health, but what scientists know so far is promising for pet owners! Since pets can decrease stress, provide companionship, and encourage physical activity, it’s no surprise that our furry friends can benefit our cognitive function.

Aly Castle

Aly is HappyNeuron Pro’s Content Specialist. She is passionate about mental health and well-being and loves utilizing her design background to share important cognitive information clearly and understandably.

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