It goes without saying that there is something special about the human-animal bond. Around 66% of Americans own one or more pets. Half of those owners are Millennials, people born between 1981 and 1995. That comes out to approximately 33% of pet owners in the United States.

The Importance of Pets in Millennials’ Lives

Why do so many millennials, or Gen Y’ers, share their lives with pets? There are many theories on that. The most obvious among them is a craving for companionship. Another reason would be to fulfill a need to nurture and care for something. That last one goes hand in hand with deriving a sense of purpose. Unconditional love and loyalty are one of the byproducts of this relationship between them and their fur babies.

Taking things further, millennials are choosing to have pets instead of children due to the prohibitive costs of raising kids. Though pets come with expenses for their care, it is nowhere near the expense of childcare – and this isn’t even taking college tuition into account. Caring for pets takes the place of caring for babies.

Interacting with pets triggers oxytocin, the hormone responsible for the bonding or “falling in love” that happens between a mother and her baby. A reduction in stress levels and lowering of blood pressure also result from this interaction between humans and pets.

Why Do Millennials Need Emotional Support?

Generation Y is among the highest in mental illness cases. Millennials face financial insecurity as a result of student debt and low-paying jobs. Their expectations for a career and personal life tend to be unrealistic, leading them to feel dissatisfied. These feelings are not helped by social media which has been a part of their lives growing up.

As a result, they spend a lot of their time comparing their lives to those on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok. They see other people in what appears to be great relationships, working their dream job, living in a nice house, wearing designer clothes, and traveling, leading to feelings of jealousy and sadness. They don’t realize most of the posts show only what the posters want others to see about their lives.

On the flip side, millennials tie up their own value or worth in the number of likes or followers they have. Worst yet, they see their colleagues getting together for a party or event they weren’t invited to and feel excluded. On top of all that, they experienced total isolation because of the Covid pandemic lockdown. Unable to interact with other human beings further intensified feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and depression.

Millennials are also aware of global issues such as climate change and social injustice, along with political instability.

To add further fuel to their stress levels, millennials have often been labeled “lazy” by older generations who do not seem to understand their need to balance work life and personal life. They also receive much less support from family, religious institutions, or communities than previous generations. With all this to deal with, is it any wonder millennials need emotional support or turn to their pets for comfort?

A group of Berkeley University students recognized the correlation between pets and mental health and started the Paws for Mental Health movement in 2016 to help students who were stressed out.

Originally named De-Stress with Dogs, they changed the name to bring more attention to the importance of addressing mental health. Not only can students take time out to relax with dogs, they can also participate in fundraising events such as Puppy Polaroids and Barktober Fest.

How to Keep Their Pets Healthy and Happy

Since pets bring so much love and emotional support to their forever parents, it’s only right to make sure they get love and care in return.

The easiest and no-cost way for starters is to give them the attention they deserve. Spend time playing and interacting with your pet. Give your dog belly rubs hugs. Scratch your kitty under the chin and behind the ears. Let them snuggle with you as you sit reading a book or watching TV. Even brushing their fur can strengthen the bond, not to mention catch any changes in their skin, such as lesions or lumps.

Make sure they get exercise. Like people, pets need regular exercise to stay healthy and prevent weight gain. If it’s a dog, taking him for a walk or a hike is one way to provide exercise. Throwing a ball or Frisbee and letting him chase it can also do wonders. If it’s a cat, a wand toy with a feather dangling on the end of a string often entices your feline to play-hunt.

You don’t even have to spend money on toys at the store. Just wad up a piece of paper and toss it into a large box or a paper bag, then watch her go wild. Cat towers are also a great way to encourage your cat to climb and sharpen her claws on something other than your furniture.

Give them the right food. There are so many choices these days, it can be pretty overwhelming. Which ones are better for those precious fur babies? Start by reading the labels. The first few ingredients should be actual meat, not meat by-products or wheat.

Many experts recommend wet food over dry. Asking a veterinarian for advice can help. The internet is also full of information regarding what to feed your pet.

Take them to the vet regularly. Like humans, pets need regular checkups to maintain good health and prolong their lifespan. Taking your pet to the veterinarian at least once yearly can help detect early signs of health issues, like cancer. Timely vaccinations can prevent disease. Shots and medicines can relieve itchy skin allergies.

Vitamins can be prescribed for geriatric pets. As pets age, they may need to see the vet more frequently than once a year. That’s often when they start having more health issues like arthritis. The care you give your pets will ensure plenty of good years with them. Because veterinarian visits can be costly, pet insurance can help offset some of the expense.