We don’t mean to gush—wait, yes we do.
woman holding a dog and a cat in her arms; thankful for our pets
Credit: Mikhail Reshetnikov / EyeEm / Getty

Few people need a specific holiday to express how they're thankful for pets because our furry four-legged companions show us so much devotion every day. Consider Zoey Ann the boxer, breaking into a tremendous butt-wiggling dance when her people come home. Or Binx, a neighborhood cat who immediately befriended a young toddler during the pandemic. 

Positive psychology research indicates regularly giving thanks makes us happier, and we'll take any excuse—including the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday—to talk about all the reasons we're thankful for our pets. We have 13 right here. How many are on your list?

1. They're Loving Companions

Dogs learned to bond with humans thousands of years ago. Cats, despite the stereotypes, demonstrate in many ways how much they love us—some researchers say as much as dogs do. Of course, anyone who ever says, "I'm thankful for my cat" around the holiday table already knows this.

2. They Keep Us Laughing

Various antics such as rolling in the grass, chasing their tail, chattering at the window talking to birds, and sprawling across your computer keyboard are often just the comic relief we need.  

3. They Keep Us Mentally Fit

Some studies suggest that cats and dogs boost the cognitive ability of people over 65. Routine walks with our pets and daily playtime help keep our brains sharp as we age. Not to mention they're plenty of fun for us as well.  

4. Routine Benefits Us In Other Ways, Too

Anyone who's ever had a cat-butt alarm in the morning understands that pets know exactly when to get us up and moving. They can't really "tell time," but we still show up each day to meet their mental and physical needs, feed them promptly, and provide essential care. It fosters a sense of purpose for people of all ages. 

5. They Help Reduce Stress

Researchers believe walking your dog or even simply petting an animal for as little as 10 minutes reduces stress. Some studies even suggest that dogs can detect our stress and provide sloppy kisses at just the right moment. 

6. Our Mental Health Is Better

People managing anxiety or depression symptoms might say they're thankful for pets because of all the ways fuzzy friends add to their wellbeing. From the healing power of cat purrs to a playtime-induced rise in natural "feel good" brain chemicals oxytocin and dopamine, there are several worthwhile effects pets have on our state of mind.  

7. So Is Our Physical Health

We know we need to move more, so another reason to be thankful for dogs is because while we often get our steps in by default, they really need daily exercise. Seeing the joy and happiness our dogs experience on walks doesn't hurt, either. The medical community offers plenty of data confirming dog owners have better cardiovascular health, and there's additional research that points to how affection from dogs helps ease chronic pain. So teach your dog (and your cat!) new tricks and explore active fun together.  

8. They're Up for Just About Anything

Speaking of exploring, is it any wonder our pets' dedication makes us want to take them everywhere? From a paragliding Samoyed to an intrepid adventure cat, consistent positive reinforcement training encourages our pets to trust us more, want to learn, and share in our travels, whether hiking a new trail or going kayaking

9. They Provide Endless Comfort

Therapy dogs and cats are the best. Whether bringing joy to children in hospitals or helping pet parents manage their daily health, therapy and service animals continually astound us with their innate compassion and dedication to keeping their humans well.

10. They Offer a Social Connection

When the Human Animal Bond Research Institute interviewed pet owners for its research, an overwhelming 80 percent said they feel less lonely because of their animal companions, and more than 50 percent said their furballs are a gateway to essential interaction with others, too. We totally get it: When people gather at a dog park, they usually chat while their pups scamper around. Cats in bookstores and cat cafes give us a chance to branch out, too. 

11. They Can Do Amazing Things 

Hero animals add to our inspiration in so many ways. We can't help but be impressed by the cat who chased off burglars or the Labrador retriever who alerted rescuers to his owner's plight with his barks. Stories like these cause viral floods because we want to be moved by all the good animals do in the world. 

12. They Teach Us To Care Deeply

The opportunity to love another creature so deeply causes heartbreak when they cross the rainbow bridge, but most of us are so thankful for our pets, we choose to do it again and again. Maybe it's because we're certain of their deep well of emotion, often displayed when they mourn the loss of their humans, animal companions, and offspring.   

13. Their Unconditional Love Is an Honor

The unwavering love our pets give us truly can't be denied. It's humbling, and we're forever grateful for it. They see us at our best and worst, but never judge, and boost our self-worth with each nuzzle and head butt. How can you make your relationship stronger? Use daily techniques to bond with your cat and dog, and your list will get even longer.