Whether you’ve grown up with pets or recently adopted one, you may already know how beneficial sharing your home with a furry friend can be. From enhancing social skills and staying active to decreasing the risk of depression and teaching responsibility, sharing your home with a furry companion offers numerous health benefits.
Here are six health benefits associated with having a pet…
1. Pets, Especially Dogs, Keep You Active
You may be tempted to come home after a long day at work and sit down on the couch, but if you come home to an excited pooch, chances are you’ll take him or her for a walk instead. The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institute of Health (NIH) have both conducted studies that prove pet owners exhibit decreased blood pressure and cholesterol and triglyceride levels, which can minimize the risk of having a heart attack.
Exercising your dog doesn’t have to be limited to walking. Agility training, jogging, biking, rollerblading, hiking, and even doga (Yoga with dogs) are all great activities that will keep both you and your dog active and healthy.
2. Beat the Blues With Your Pet
Who can resist a purring kitten or wagging tail? There’s a reason why animals are used in hospitals, schools, and nursing homes for animal-assisted therapy. Studies have shown that animals can reduce tension and improve mood. Not only do they offer unconditional love, pets offer companionship if you’re feeling lonely or you need motivation to get out of the house.
They don’t judge or critique your actions—they simply want to be with you. If you’ve had a bad day at the office or you’ve had an argument, a pet can distract you and help you redirect your feelings to shake your bad mood off.
3. Cuddling Makes Us Happy
Who doesn’t love to cuddle? Whether you have a lap cat or a dog that shares your couch, studies from the National Institute of Health have shown that people feel better when they have physical contact. In fact, petting a dog can lower your heart rate.
The healing power of touch is undisputed and it doesn’t have to come from another human. Hugging naturally releases oxytocin, a hormone that reduces stress, as well as boosting levels of serotonin and dopamine. So go ahead and hug your pet—it will make you happy!
4. Pets are a Social Icebreaker
Whether your dog is with you on a walk or you’re sharing a story about your house cat, pets can be an icebreaker in any social setting. Pets provide a common denominator when chatting with other pet owners or animal lovers.
For people who are socially awkward or introverted and have a hard time meeting and getting to know people, a friendly dog saying hello can be all it takes to start a conversation. Visiting a local dog park, taking obedience classes or walking in the neighborhood provides ample opportunities for both you and your dog to interact with two and four legged friends.
5. Pets Help Ward Off Allergies
You may think that sharing your home with a fuzzy friend may trigger allergies because of the fur and dander, but several clinical studies have shown that having a pet in the home can actually lower the likelihood of developing allergies, especially in young children.
If you already suffer from allergies, don’t fret. While there are no completely hypoallergenic pets, there are some hypoallergenic dogs that produce less allergens than others. Standard poodles, Bichon fries, and the American labradoodle for example. Of course, you could always opt to adopt a tank full of fish or a lizard if you’re concerned about the fur.
6. Pets Encourage Responsibility and Routine
Pet ownership brings so much happiness and joy, but it also teaches responsibility. It may seem that taking care of yourself is hard enough, but adding a little responsibility can help bring focus and routine to your life. This is an especially important for adults who live on their own or for kids who need to learn to be responsible.
Whether it’s feeding the cat, walking the dog, or cleaning the hamster cage, the jobs associated with owning a pet remind you that you’re very capable of taking care of yourself and someone else. Not to mention providing structure and routine to your day. You may want to sleep the day away, but you’ll have to get up if you have a pet at home.