two yellow labrador retriever puppies

Animals Hobbies

On animals, our love for them, and animal-related hobbies.

Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.

Commonly attributed to Anatole France, though not verified.

woman carrying adult fawn dog
Animals can be both great givers and recipients of love.

It is safe to assume that you’ve reached this page because you believe animals can have a positive effect on your life. Science supports your belief:

[…] the literature reviewed is largely supportive of the widely held, and long-standing, belief that “pets are good for us.”

The Effects of Animals on Human Health and Well-Being

Animals can lower stress and anxiety, increase physical activity and social interaction, boost mood and self-esteem, and develop empathy, kindness, and responsibility.

Numerous studies indicate that companion animal ownership is associated with a range of physical, psychological and social health advantages.

The ‘pet effect’–health related aspects of companion animal ownership

Why is a human-animal bond so BENEFICIAL?

While the exact mechanisms through which humans benefit from bonding with animals are subject to scientific research, the underlying logic might be basic and simple:

We are part of nature and wired to enjoy it

The term biophilia was first used by Erich Fromm, a German-American psychoanalyst, in The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness (1973), where he defined biophilia as “the intense love of life and of everything that is alive.” The term was later adopted by Edward O. Wilson, an American biologist, in his book Biophilia (1984), where he suggested that the human tendency to be drawn to and to associate with nature and other life forms is partly influenced by genetics.

smiling blonde woman hugging cat
Some of us are animal lovers, by nature.

Animals provide us with the distraction we need to relax

Like most pastime activities, animal-related activities distract people from everyday stress, allowing them to feel calmer. Unlike some other hobbies though, animals require substantial responsibility, which enforces distraction.

10-minute college-based AVP (animal visitation program) providing hands-on petting of cats and dogs provides momentary stress relief.

Animal Visitation Program (AVP) Reduces Cortisol Levels of University Students: A Randomized Controlled Trial

common clownfish
Animals can provide us with a distraction from stress. It can be meditative.

Research demonstrates that companion animals reduce individuals’ stress responses to stressful situations.

The Human–Companion Animal Bond: How Humans Benefit

Animals supply us with meaning

Taking care of another living being can also supply us with a strong sense of meaning, that we all look for. It can also boost our self-esteem and confidence.

People perceive pets as important, supportive parts of their lives, and significant cardiovascular and behavioral benefits are associated with those perceptions.

Cardiovascular reactivity and the presence of pets, friends, and spouses: the truth about cats and dogs

Animals supply us with physical activity

In many cases, animal-related activity encourages and even demands us to be more physically active. Our bond with and love of the animal makes physical exercise natural and enjoyable, rather than a chore. This way, animals can improve our physical health.

There is good evidence that the strength of the dog-owner relationship, through a sense of obligation to walk the dog, and the perceived support and motivation a dog provides for walking, is strongly associated with increased walking.

How might we increase physical activity through dog walking?: A comprehensive review of dog walking correlates

photo of woman riding horse near tree
Animals provide an opportunity for enjoyable physical activity.

Pet owners in our clinic population had lower levels of accepted risk factors for cardiovascular disease

Pet ownership and risk factors for cardiovascular disease

Animals help us meet our social needs

Animals can meet our social needs – both themselves directly, a dog isn’t called ‘man’s best friend’ for nothing – and by being catalysts and enhancers of social interaction with other humans. Being near some animals can make you more cheerful, sociable, and enjoy yourself more with other people. This reaction is similar to how people often respond to infants or young children.

It is known that pet dogs can act as catalysts for human social interactions […] It is concluded that the social catalysis effect is very robust

Dogs as catalysts for social interactions: robustness of the effect

selective focus photography of three smiling women looking at white and brown dog
Animals can enhance our human connections.

While naturally most scientific research was done on pets (mostly dogs and cats) and in relation to diseases and age – there is no reason to believe the benefits of animal-assisted activities are limited to these scopes.

Pet ownership, or just being in the presence of a companion animal, is associated with health benefits, including improvements in mental, social, and physiologic health status.

The human-companion animal bond: how humans benefit

Not just owning a pet: Types of animal-related hobbies

While owning a pet is the most obvious animal-related hobby, it might not be for everyone. Luckily, owning a pet isn’t the only option to enjoy the benefits of animal-related activities.

Petting other people’s dogs, even briefly, can boost your health.

Petting other people’s (friendly) dogs can boost your health : Shots – Health News : NPR

People are also helped by tending to crickets, playing with dolphins, and gazing at fish. Even just watching videos of animals can help you feel better.

Stressed? Spending Time With Animals Might Help

close up of a flying kingfisher
Even just observed, animals are awesome.

You can enjoy animals without owning them. You can, for example, ride a horse and help take care of it at a riding farm. You can also enjoy animals just by watching them – for example through birdwatching, which can even be done online. Raising a guide dog puppy is an option between owning and not owning a pet: you will be taking full-time care of the puppy, but only for a limited period, and with the instructional and financial support of the training center.

The responsibilities of owning a pet

Owning a pet can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience, but it also comes with ethical responsibilities and challenges. Pet owners have a duty to provide their animals with adequate food, water, shelter, health care, and socialization. They also have to respect their animals’ natural instincts and needs and avoid causing them unnecessary harm or suffering.

Moreover, pet owners have to consider the environmental and social impacts of their choices, such as the source of their pets, the breeding practices, the overpopulation problem, and the potential conflicts with wildlife or other humans. Owning a pet is not a right, but a privilege that requires careful thought and commitment.

short coated tan dog inside fence
Consider the ethics and responsibilities of owning a pet.

Find an animal-related hobby

Explore our catalog of hobbies involving animals, and find the best animal-assisted activity for you.

Animals Hobbies List

Each hobby page is designed to inspire and help you get started.

Explore all hobbies →