It's not just love, it's science.
One thing is certain about our friends with four legs and a tail—we love them, and they love us back. LGBTQ+ pet parents, in particular, have a special relationship with their four-legged companions… and it’s not just love—it’s science.
Did you know that 7 out of 10 lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender adults are pet parents?
To celebrate Pride month, let’s explore how pets have filled the role of everything from best friend to family member, and what that means for LGBTQ+ people.
Mental health in the LGBTQ+ community
From adolescence to adulthood, LGBTQ+ individuals of all backgrounds experience disproportionate setbacks in school, the workplace, and even at home as a result of their gender identity and sexual orientation.
Mental health challenges, suicidal ideation, discrimination, inaccessible healthcare, and limited career advancement are just a few examples of how this continues into our elderly years.
As we take strides toward inclusivity, we can all count on one source of support, and it’s our pets.
Benefits of pets for mental health
In Figo’s survey of pet owners, four in five revealed that their pet has positively impacted their mental health—from social connections to self-esteem, routines, and anxiety relief.
Don’t just take Figo’s word for it—the experts agree, and some have studied pet companionship unique to LGBTQ+ people.
One study found that pets served as a buffer to stress, a coping mechanism for mental health, provided a sense of purpose and identity, and even helped with overall socialization.
About 75% of those studied consider their pet “a source of support that helps them cope with LGBTQ-related stressors, such as discrimination, rejection and microaggressions from their peers and family members.”
It gets even better with age
It turns out that our pets’ unconditional love and companionship contribute to our professional, personal, and academic growth, according to one study of young adults. In this research, the link between LGBTQ+ adolescents’ poor social support and their resulting mental health challenges was significantly influenced by animal companionship.
Researchers also found that having a pet benefits LGBTQ+ adults over 50, highlighting their influence on social support and even in meeting new people. They also found that pets introduced exercise, companionship, and more active routines into these adults’ lives as their schedules became less busy (and less social) as they grew older.
“I was living by myself, she was the only other person in the house. She was excellent for me. Because I was expecting to die within a short period of time, I think her spirit coming into my life may have saved my life. She was a lifesaver.” says Robert of Youtube's "Old Gays" on his first rescue dog.
From the classroom to retirement, our pups and kitties play a substantial role in the lives of LGBTQ+ people!
Members of our chosen family
Similar to couples struggling to conceive, pets are a great way to bring a new ‘baby’ home for gay and lesbian couples. There’s a reason we have the term “furbaby,” after all. The adoption process can be cost-prohibitive and yet another source of discrimination for same-sex parents-to-be.
It’s not just babies, though. Queer people use the term “chosen family” to represent their unique community circles and friend group dynamics.
Chosen families are as diverse as those in them, becoming the family we find outside our biological one (or in place of it).
From family dinners to emotional support, chosen families play a meaningful role in LGBTQ+ lives, and, you guessed it—our cats and dogs are also part of our chosen families. Though, maybe not so much at the dinner table.
Taking Pride in our pets
Our pets bring a smile to our faces, make us laugh even when they’re naughty, keep us warm on cold nights, and encourage us to take long walks in the sunshine.
For the LGBTQ+ community, this source of love, companionship, belonging, and purpose makes our day and gives some a reason to see the next one.
Pet parenting isn’t easy, and neither is being queer or trans. In our minds and in our hearts, it’s all worth it to take Pride in pet parenting.
Take a moment to celebrate our lovable pet allies and meet some of Figo’s Proud Pet Parents.
Dylan M. Austin is a highly caffeinated writer and creator in Seattle. When offline, he's hanging out with his Chihuahua Terrier rescue, Will, and adding to his increasingly excessive houseplant collection.