Adopting dogs and cats is no easy feat, but that hasn’t stopped Americans from embracing these companion animals at staggering rates. In fact, a cool third of American families own pets.
From soothing muscle aches to slashing stress to even increasing your longevity, owning pet offers some serious health benefits. But a pet in the house is more than just a fun new family member: it’s a bona fide mini medicine cabinet. Here they are.
1 Pets help your heart.
Not only do adorable pets melt hearts with their sweet faces, but they also keep your ticker in tip-top shape and combat loneliness. That’s according to one study on the health benefits of owning a pet and its influence on physical activity levels on how pets affect your mental and physical health published in the journal on the impact of companion animals on human health Circulation, which found that owning a pet is correlated with both a reduced heart disease risk and lower blood pressure among heart disease patients.
2 They keep you happy.
Any pet owner can attest to the fact that nothing is quite as comforting as cuddling up with a furry friend. One study conducted at Ohio State University found that for college students, simply owning a cat or dog was enough to help reduce their risk of becoming depressed or feeling lonely. The companionship of pets can provide a sense of purpose.
3 And prevent you from putting on pounds.
In the same Ohio State study, nearly 25 percent of participants reported that owning a dog or cat helped keep them active, primarily because their pets forced them to go outside for walks. And this is good news for owners’ waistlines, seeing as researchers from Duke University found that walking for just 30 minutes a day—whether it’s with or without your dog—can help prevent weight gain.
4 They de-stress you.
Is a big test or a daunting work presentation severely upping your cortisol levels? Some downtime with your dog could help calm you down. In fact, according to one study out of SUNY Buffalo, just being around your pet is enough to reduce stress and anxiety levels—even more than if you were to seek comfort from a loved one.
5 They protect children against allergies.
If you want to protect your child from developing allergies, then just get them a furry brother or sister. Research published in the journal Microbiome found that children who lived in homes with pets present had higher levels of microbes associated with a reduced risk of allergic disease. The study authors believe that because pets expose children to bacteria and dirt at an early age, toddlers with a cat or dog are better able to develop immunity.
6 They help with PTSD.
When researchers at the Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine analyzed veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), they found that “the group of veterans with service dogs had significantly lower levels of PTSD symptomology than those who did not have a service dog,” according to a press release.
7 They lower cholesterol levels.
According to the American Heart Association, owning a pet is one of the many ways you can lower your cholesterol levels (and it certainly beats cutting red meat out of your diet). Caring for a pet has a plethora of physical and mental health benefits.
8 They reduce stroke risk.
Owning a pet of any kind is beneficial for heart health, but cat owners are especially protected in this particular area. Cat owners are 30 percent less likely to have a heart attack and 40 percent less likely to have a stroke, highlighting the health benefits of owning these pets. Marty Necker, DVM, veterinary expert and author of Your Dog: The Owner’s Manual explained to Woman’s Day.
9 They improve self-esteem.
Even though they can’t say anything, dogs and cats have the incredible capability to lift their owners up as no human can. In fact, one study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology concluded that generally, pet owners benefit from greater self-esteem and mental wellbeing than those who live alone.
10 Pet owners make fewer doctor’s visits.
An apple a day might keep the doctor away—but if you’re not a fan of the fruit, you could always just get a dog or cat instead. According to one study published in Social Indicators Research, simply owning a pet can reduce your number of doctor’s visits by about 15 percent annually.
11 And they take fewer medications.
If you want to save money on medications, just become the proud of owner of a canine or feline. According to another study published in the journal Social Indicators Research, pet owners were less likely than their pet-free counterparts to be on medications for things like heart problems and sleeping troubles. Getting a pet and living healthier: It’s a win-win.
12 They stave off diabetes.
Struggling to get off the couch and take your dog for a leisurely stroll? Remember, pets require physical activity, which benefits both of you. This information might motivate you: According to the Mayo Clinic, going for a walk every day helps to prevent and/or manage various health conditions, including type 2 diabetes.
13 Improve Social Connections
Owning a pet, particularly a dog, can significantly boost your social connections, offering health benefits that extend beyond physical well-being. Pets, especially dogs, require walks and outdoor activities, naturally leading to more interactions with others, from neighbors to fellow pet enthusiasts. This can increase your sense of community and belonging. They also encourage social interactions, connecting pet owners through clubs, events, and online communities. The companionship of a pet can thus play a crucial role in improving overall mental and physical health, fostering social connections, and enriching lives.
14 Improved Cognitive Function
Research has shown that pets, whether a cat or a dog, can play a pivotal role in enhancing cognitive function among older adults, possibly decelerating the onset of memory-related conditions like Alzheimer’s. The benefits of owning a pet extend to providing individuals with a sense of purpose and a consistent routine, both of which are essential for supporting mental health. Indeed, pets provide not just companionship but also a therapeutic presence that nurtures the mind, making them invaluable companions for older adults.
15 Therapeutic Benefits for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
Research suggests that interacting with animals can offer significant therapeutic benefits for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), including fostering calmness and reducing aggressive behaviors. Human-animal interaction research has highlighted activities like playing with a dog or watching fish as effective ways to provide a source of comfort and support for children with autism. These interactions not only serve as therapeutic tools but also enhance the overall quality of life for those with ASD, underscoring the valuable role pets play in supporting diverse needs.
In conclusion, the myriad health benefits of pet ownership extend far beyond the simple joy and unconditional love our furry friends provide. From significant improvements in cardiovascular health, mental well-being, and physical fitness to the unexpected advantages of allergy prevention and diabetes management, pets truly are a potent force for enhancing human health. This article underscores not only the emotional and psychological perks of having a pet but also solidifies the role of pets in promoting a healthier lifestyle. As we navigate the complexities of modern life, the presence of a pet can be a comforting, stabilizing force, offering everything from stress relief to a compelling reason to stay active. Embracing pet ownership is not just about adding a playful companion to the family; it’s about investing in a multifaceted health benefit that nurtures both body and soul.