When I come home at night, I am never alone. Even if everyone else in the house is out or too busy to say hello, Luke and Jake are there to greet me at the door, sometimes with their leashes in their mouths. These loveable labs are my best friends and I can’t imagine my life without them. Besides being great company, it turns out they, along with my cat, Simone, are also good for my health and well-being.
Here are 9 ways that pets affect our lives positively as our furry friends with benefits:
They Reduce Loneliness.
Pets make great companions and can help us stave off loneliness. A Psych Net study showed that people with pet dogs have their social needs met by pets just as well as friends. Subjects said their dogs kept them company just as effectively as humans. In this case, people with pets did not rely solely on their interaction with their pets, unlike the “cat lady” stereotype, and the study suggests that people with pets were actually more confident and socially active.
Pets May Lower Cholesterol
If you walk your dog daily, those walks are keeping you healthier. For one thing, it tends to lower your cholesterol and triglycerides. This seems especially true for men.
Pets May Reduce Your Blood Pressure
Stress is a major factor impacting blood pressure. Petting you cat, dog or other pet benefits both of you. This activity brings down blood pressure while making them happy. According to the Huffington Post, researchers at the State University of New York, Buffalo, found that among people taking hypertension medication, blood pressure due to stress was much lower for those with cats or dogs.
Pets Reduce Your Risk of Cardiovascular Disease
Lower stress, cholesterol and blood pressure coupled with increased fitness levels leads to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. The American Heart Association, in 2013, reviewed studies correlating pet ownership with lower occurrence of cardiovascular disease. The AHA corroborated findings that pets, and especially dogs, contributed to lower risk and a higher survival rate. Thanks, Luke and Jake!
Pets Reduce or Eliminate Depression
Your pets provide a great deal of social contact, which improves your overall wellbeing when compared to those without pets. These results were provided by the Huffington Post, quoting the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Again, dogs were found to especially provide support that resulted in a therapeutic boost to psychological wellbeing. The impact of lower stress positively impacts self-esteem, self-reliance and competence.
They Bring Us Together With Other People
Forget the stereotype of the crazy old woman with 20 cats and no human friends. Those people surely exist, but the norm is exactly the opposite. Owning a pet often helps us build better human relationships by forming bonds with other pet owners. Pets are natural conversation starters and often introduce themselves to other animals (again especially dogs) or people.
Pets Boost Your Fitness
Dogs are good companions on a walk and probably more physically able than even a friend, meaning you will have to work to keep up with them. Dog walkers get the average recommended physical exercise per day if they walk their dogs twice a day for 30 minutes. According to the Huffington Post, a study found that dog owners walk about 300 minutes a week compared to non-pet owners walking 168 minutes a week. The Journal of Physical Activity & Health reported that besides dog owners walking more than non-owners, dog owners were 54% more successful in meeting the recommend daily physical activity.
Animals Help Relieve Stress
When you meet that special someone or are relaxing with your kids, you will sometimes get an overwhelming sense of well-being. Being in the same room as your pet can also calm you down. According to Time.com, our brains release oxytocin when we look at our pets. Oxytocin triggers feeling of joy and combat the impacts of cortisol, a stress hormone.
Pets May Prevent Allergies in Children
Having a pet as a kid can decrease your likelihood of getting allergies. According to Time.com, quoting a study by Clinical & Experimental Allergy, kids who were around dogs before they were six months old were way less likely to get allergic diseases, hay fever or eczema when they grew older. Children growing up with farm animals, dogs or cats usual have stronger immune systems, as well as lower incidence of asthma or eczema.
Consider Getting a Pet if You Think it Will Help You
Having pets can improve your health and psychological well-being and provide you with some of the most memorable relationships in your life. A friend of mine recently showed me pictures of Luke and Jake cuddled up in tiny balls in my daughters’ laps. They were just tiny pups, and now they are intertwined with the memory of that day, my twin’s 6th birthday, as much as Jenny and Eliza.
If you are living alone or lack a strong social support system, consider getting a dog or a cat for companionship. Who knows, maybe once you start walking the dog and exercising or seeking out other pet owners. In any case, owning a pet seems to improve lives and social bonds, and it keeps us more in touch with our humanity.