Any dog or cat owner knows that their quality of life is greatly improved by the presence of their furry companion. The joy, love, and companionship that cats, dogs, and other pets bring to humans is undeniable. Yet, you may not realize that pets can also be incredibly beneficial to your health. Bringing a puppy or kitten into your life may be the solution to your ailments and may help to prevent other illnesses from forming. Pets can also inspire you to form healthy habits.
1. They encourage you to exercise A dog owner never has to roam alone. Even small dogs require daily walks, so owning a pooch can help you to start getting some much-needed exercise. Some people get dogs specifically because they need a jogging companion. Some dogs, especially retrievers, are also good at water sports. Maintaining athleticism is much easier when you know you owe it to your dog to get some daily activity. Researchers from Michigan State University reported that 60% of dog owners meet the federal criteria for regular, moderate, or vigorous exercise as a result of regularly walking with their dog. Likewise, dog owners tend to be more active people, even elderly dog owners. Dr. Reeves, an associate professor of epidemiology at Michigan State, found that dog owners generally exercise 30 minutes more per week than non-dog owners.
2. They lower blood pressure There’s a reason you delight in cuddling your dog or lounging with a purring cat in your lap. Pets have been scientifically shown to lower your blood pressure, having a deeply relaxing effect on their owners. If you’re stressed out over demanding things like work or school, spending some time with your pet can ease your anxiety. At the State University of New York at Buffalo, researchers conducted a study on 48 stressed out stockbrokers who were on hypertension medication. The stockbrokers that introduced a pet into their lives lowered their blood pressure by half of what was increased when they first became physically and mentally stressed. Researchers found both dogs and cats to be equally effective in terms of reducing blood pressure.
3. They fight depression A study conducted at Ohio State University found that college students with pets depend on their furry friends to overcome the blues. James Gause, a licensed professional counselor with Montgomery Area Mental Health, notes that pets are beneficial for a variety of mental illnesses and ailments, including depression. It’s difficult to be lonely or sad when you come home to an animal that thinks of you as its entire world. A licking, tail-wagging dog may greet you excitedly every time you come home, while a cat may circle and rub itself against your legs affectionately. This unconditional love can be very soul-healing
4. They keep you social Dog people can interact seamlessly with other dog people simply because of their shared understanding of canine companionship. If you visit a dog park with your dog, not only will he get to socialize with other dogs in the area, but you’ll be prone to interact with other dog owners. Many pet owners would agree that discussing your pet can be akin to discussing your own children, delighting in bragging about their quirks and abilities. Some men may think of their dog as a “chick magnet,” and dogs can be a great ice breaker for connecting with someone of the opposite sex. According to research collected by Dogs Trust, of 700 participants in a recent survey, 60% said that owning a dog makes people more attractive. Another 85% claimed that people with dogs are easier to talk to
5. They strengthen the immune system Having a dog or growing up with dogs strengthens your immune system because, in short, dogs are germy. Exposing yourself to more bacteria in turn strengthens your immune system, much in the same way that getting the chicken pox once helps your body fight it off and never contract it again. Likewise, a study in the 2009 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that children raised with cats or dogs, specifically in the first year of life, were less likely to develop allergies or asthma. Not only are they less prone to pet allergies, but they are also less likely to develop pollen or mold allergies. In fact, their risk was cut in half. It is important that this exposure take place within the first year of life because that is when the immune system is developing
6. They keep your heart healthy Of course, as a result of decreased stress, pets also keep your heart in check. If you own a cat or dog, it’s less likely that you’ll suffer a stroke, heart attack, or develop heart disease. After a 10-year study, researchers at the University of Minnesota’s Stroke Institute in Minneapolis concluded that owning a cat can reduce your risk for a heart attack by as much as one third. Dr. Adnan Qureshi, senior author of the study, noted that dogs would probably also lower your risk, but the study focused mainly on cat owners. Likewise, a study presented to the American Heart Association in 2005 showed that dogs are beneficial to those with heart failure, as they boost the overall functioning of the heart and lungs.
7. They help children grow Pets help children with emotional growth, as owning a pet can teach a child valuable lessons about responsibility. When a child has to become aware of the physical and emotional needs of a pet, such as being petted, played with, fed, and walked, they learn things like empathy and unconditional love. They may have a greater self-esteem because the animal is devoted to them. If the child’s animal passes away, it helps the child to learn how to cope with loss.
8. They help you sleep For insomniacs, the rhythmic breathing of a pet at their feet or side on the bed can help them relax and fall asleep. Likewise, if you live alone, having your pet nearby while you sleep may make you feel safer. Your pet doesn’t have to be fierce for this notion to work — simply having the presence of your pet around can be comforting for those that would otherwise feel vulnerable at night alone. Of course, not all pet owners find that they sleep better with pets in their beds. If your cat or dog wakes you up throughout the night, it’s probably best to shut them outside of the bedroom.