National Pet Day is April 11, although if you’re a pet owner, you know there’s not a day that goes by that you don’t celebrate your animal companion! So hug your hedgehog, bond with your bunny, and cut your kitty some catnip! That critter makes you happy — and that’s not all. Over the past 10 years, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has been a partner in research to determine the physical and mental benefits of having a pet. It turns out that not only can pets steal our hearts, but they also contribute to overall cardiovascular health by lowering cortisol, cholesterol, and blood pressure levels.
History of National Pet Day
Colleen Paige, animal welfare advocate and pet and family lifestyle expert, founded National Pet Day in 2006 to celebrate the joy pets can bring to us. But she also wanted to bring attention to the ongoing needs of many pets of all kinds waiting in shelters to be adopted. She encouraged people who want purebred dogs and cats to contact rescue organizations instead of going to a breeder. “Don’t shop! Adopt!” has become the holiday motto.
In 1973, the Humane Society of the United States estimated that 13 million cats and dogs enter shelters every year. Some were strays, some were surrendered by owners who could no longer care for them, some were seized in legal actions. Today, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, approximately 6.5 million companion animals enter shelters nationwide. And 1.6 million cats and 1.6 million dogs find their furever homes.
Colleen’s holiday got its start in the U.S., but it soon expanded internationally. Pet lovers now mark the day in the U.K., Ireland, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Spain, Guam, Scotland, and many more nations.
Celebrities have also taken up the cause. National Pet Day has been promoted by Taylor Swift, Ellen De Generes, Ricky Gervais, Cee Lo Green, Jimmy Fallon, Willy Nelson, Kevin Bacon, Seth Myers, and Carrie Underwood, among others.
And social media has helped spread the celebration and promote Colleen’s cause. When President Barack Obama was in office, he warmed political hearts on both sides of the aisle with his posted pic of Bo, one of the two Portuguese water dogs who shared the White House with him. Bo was rehomed when he couldn’t get along with an older dog owned by a family in Texas.