There’s much evidence, both anecdotal and through various studies, that show pet ownership brings a variety of health advantages that those without pets don’t experience. Read on to discover three therapeutic benefits to being a pet parent.
Being a pet parent can also teach you mindfulness. Companion animals are excellent examples of being present and finding joy in the simple things. Watch your pets for a while. They don’t worry about deadlines or stress about tomorrow. Your cat can bask in the joy of sunlight coming through the window for hours at a time, and your dog can take enormous pleasure in playing with a ball till you have to pry it away from him. Taking a cue from your pets to enjoy the moment helps you be more mindful in yours, lowering your blood pressure and overall stress.
Benefit #2: Pets improve your health. “Early to bed and early to rise keeps a man healthy, wealthy and wise,” Benjamin Franklin said. And he was right. But pet ownership keeps you healthy, too--both physically and emotionally. There’s evidence that pet owners have lower instances of allergies and stronger immunity overall. In fact, people 65 years and older with pets go to the doctor 30% less than those without. And caring for pets makes you heart healthy, too. Indicators of heart disease (higher cholesterol or triglyceride levels in the blood) are found much less frequently in those with pets than those without.
Having pets in your life makes your heart happier as well. Pets give you a sense of connectedness and provide affection that hold isolation at bay and keep us mentally and emotionally happy. I mean, how can you not smile when looking at their cute faces? And when you do, the so-called “love hormone”, oxytocin, is released into your blood, increasing that heart happiness even more. And studies have also shown that being a pet parent alleviates depression by providing the structure of a routine to help you keep moving forward.
In addition to promoting relaxation and good health, pets can also help enhance your social life. Tending pets helps you develop essential skills for social connection, such as compassion and empathy. Even if you consider yourself to be shy, having pets can increase your self confidence to get out into the world, making you take more chances to connect to other humans. In fact, studies have shown that pet owners are 60% more likely to get to know neighbors than those without pets.
Having your pet with you when you’re out and about gives you an instant icebreaker, as the people you meet ask about him/her. But your pet doesn’t have to be with you to help you make social connections. Mentioning your guinea pig or parrot in a conversation with people invites them to them talk about their pets or other interests, giving you common ground to make friends and connections. You can also join clubs, online discussion groups or pet play date groups to meet likeminded people and expand your social circle--as well as your pet’s.
With all of these therapeutic benefits to pet ownership, it’s no wonder pet parents’ lives are so enriched by their animal companions. If you’re considering becoming a pet owner, check out local rescue organizations and shelters to adopt and give an animal a forever home. Your heart, health and social life will be better for it!
Health Benefits of Dogs and Cats
Pets Can Help Their Humans Create Friendships, Find Social Support
Pets for Depression
Vet Talk: Health Benefits of Pet Ownership