Scientists have proved that petting cats and dogs for just ten minutes is an effective way to reduce stress levels.
Scientists showed that the general well-being of students improves quickly, with even those who are highly stressed showing 'significant' reduction in cortisol levels - a chemical produced by our bodies in times of stress.
Many universities have adopted 'Pet Your Stress Away' programs where students can interact with cats or dogs and it appears to be paying dividends now.
The research, conducted by Washington State University, shows that pets improve students' moods and their presence has stress-relieving physiological benefits.
'Just 10 minutes can have a significant impact,' said Patricia Pendry, an associate professor in WSU's Department of Human Development.
'Students in our study that interacted with cats and dogs had a significant reduction in cortisol, a major stress hormone.'
This is the first study that has demonstrated reductions in students' cortisol levels during a real-life intervention.
The team chose 249 college students and put them into four random groups and compared the effects of different exposures to animals.
The first group were provided 10 minutes of hands-on interaction with dogs and cats.
The second group waited in line while observing others petting the animals.
The third group watched a slideshow of the same animals, while the fourth group was 'waitlisted.'
Salivary cortisol samples were collected from each participant starting from the moment they woke up in the morning.
There were significantly less cortisol in the saliva of students who had direct interaction with the pets.
'We already knew that students enjoy interacting with animals, and that it helps them experience more positive emotions,' Dr Pendry said.
'What we wanted to learn was whether this exposure would help students reduce their stress in a less subjective way.
'And it did, which is exciting because the reduction of stress hormones may, over time, have significant benefits for physical and mental health.'
The findings were published in the journal American Educational Research Association.