Americans’ love for their pets is evident by the prevalence of dog parks, viral cat videos, and pet boutique shops. For many pet owners, their pets are part of the family. There’s a reason for this. Pets make wonderful companions and provide many emotional and physical benefits. The most obvious benefits of pet ownership are love and companionship. “We do best medically and emotionally when we feel securely attached to another, because we’re mammals and that’s the way we’ve evolved,” says psychiatrist Dr. Greg Fricchione, director of the Harvard-affiliated Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine. Taking care of a pet can provide a sense of purpose and a feeling of validation when you wake up or come home and there’s someone who’s happy to see you. The companionship provided by pets can even help manage loneliness and depression.
The physical benefits of owning a pet come from the activity necessary to take care of it, increasing opportunities to get outside, exercise, and socialize, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Regular walking or playing with pets can decrease blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and triglyceride levels, reducing your risk for heart disease and stroke. Socialization with other pet owners and their pets, while taking a walk, meeting up at the park, or arranging a play-date, can bring happiness to both pet and person.
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, more people are turning to pets for companionship and comfort. Since early March, applications to foster pets are up 400 percent compared to last year, according to Matt Bershadker, president and CEO of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).
Americans’ love for their pets is obvious, but just how many furry companions we love is disputed. The total number of U.S. households with pets ranges from 57 percent, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, and 68 percent, according to the American Pet Products Association. The overall pet population includes over 77 million dogs and 58 million cats. Birds and horses are the third and fourth most popular companion animals, with over 7 million and 1.9 million in the U.S., respectively, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. The most popular exotic animals include fish, reptiles, rabbits, and pet poultry.
One thing is for sure; people enjoy taking photos of their pets. All American Pet Photo Day on July 11th is an occasion for proud pet owners to show off and give praise to their companions by sharing pet photos online. Make this All American Pet Photo Day special by taking pictures of your pet doing the activities that they enjoy, such as playing ball, hanging out at the park or maybe wearing a fun outfit! You can take photos of your animals enjoying an afternoon nap, cuddling with their other animal friends, talking, performing tricks, or just stealing your heart by being themselves. Show your pet how much you love them by treating them to something special, such as running through the sprinklers, a delicious treat, or a new toy, and then taking a picture of it for all to see.
Why do cute photos of animals make us happier? The human brain favors visual information as a result of evolutionary processes – our vision helps us to determine if the surrounding environment is safe or risky. This means that a significant portion of our daily emotions are connected to processing what we see. As the brain processes what we see, it triggers the release of certain chemicals to cause specific emotional responses. Viewing an image that evokes a positive emotional response can make us feel happy and combat stress. An adorable kitten wearing a sombrero makes you feel happy because you brain is saying “this thing is cute and needs you to take care of it!”
Taking and posting pictures can also make us happier. A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that taking photos of an experience increases engagement, and with more engagement comes more happiness. Furthermore, sharing photos that make others smile or laugh inflates our egos, which in turn makes us happy!
Most animals are not naturally camera ready, so to get that adorable picture it’s important to have a few tricks up your sleeve. The best way to grab your pet’s attention is by having some tasty smelling treats on hand. Treats can be used to get your pet to sit still, look at the camera, or to give them something to play with so you can get a candid shot. Picking an area or place where your pet is comfortable can also help you to get them to pose. To capture all of your pet’s poses you should use the burst mode on your camera, which will take multiple pictures one after the other within a few seconds. If you can hold your pet with one hand, try taking a selfie!
Although posting pictures on social media can increase your socialization and your mood, All American Pet Photo Day is about more than just pictures. It’s a day to celebrate companionship, love, and health and wellness. Taking pictures of your pets can help make you and your friends happier and less stressed. It might also encourage someone you know to foster or adopt a pet themselves! You can help to improve the quality of someone else’s life simply by sharing a picture of your beloved animal companion. There are many people who cannot have an animal companion, for health or financial reasons, so the picture that you post of your pet has the ability to bring joy to so many more people than you may know. To make this day even more impactful, consider donating to an animal shelter or charity. Challenge your friends to post pictures of their pets and for every picture posted you can donate $1 to the charity of your choice! Now you’re improving the lives of animals who are waiting to find their human companion.
We love animal photos and invite you to tag #Envision2bWell in all of your pet photos on Instagram and show us how you love your pets!
Use the #allamericanpetphotoday to join the national community of online pet enthusiasts and to see what cute, creative, and funny pet pictures are being posted.