Most pet owners agree that snuggling with a cat or dog after a hard day of work can instantly produce feelings of happiness and relaxation. That warm fuzzy reaction you get when your dog licks your hand or your cat rubs against your leg isn't merely a fluke. Numerous studies have proven that spending time with a pet can eliminate stress and improve your overall sense of well-being. Take a look at a couple of the surprising ways in which dogs and cats can decrease your anxiety levels and give your mood a much-needed boost.

Pets Get You Moving

It may not always be fun to take your dog out for a bathroom break at six o'clock in the morning, but many pet owners experience significant physical benefits from walking their dogs. Not only do these walks give owners daily physical activity, but the act of going outside and getting some fresh air can improve pet owners' moods. For owners who spend a good deal of time alone, walks and trips to the dog park can provide great opportunities for social interaction. Don't think dog owners are the only ones who can take advantage of this heart-pumping benefit. If you have a cat, check out some tips for exercising with your kitty.

Animals Are Smart Choice for Students

Pets are so good at eliminating stress that many colleges and universities use animals to help their students cope with the pressure of final exams. In 2011, Yale's law library introduced students to Monty, a therapy dog who was available for playtime over a three-day period during finals. The students responded very positively to Monty, and an increasing number of colleges around the country have been bringing in animals to help their students take advantage of these fun and furry study breaks.

The next time you're feeling overwhelmed or anxious, try playing with your own pet, borrowing a friend's animal, or checking with your local animal shelter about volunteer opportunities. Don't be surprised if you get so caught up in the playful romps, soft cuddles, and slobbery licks that you forget why you were stressed out in the first place.

About the Author: Anne Maria Wynter

Anne Maria Wynter is lifelong animal aficionado who frequently writes about pets and pet ownership. She currently lives in Austin, TX with her cat, Jasmine Samuel Pants