We don’t need to tell you that there’s much more to owning pets that having something cute and cuddly around to look at and occasionally cuddle. Pets enrich and improve our lives in countless ways, and it’s not just about amusement. They offer us real, observable benefits that make us happier, make us healthier and even save our lives. Here are 12 pet perks you might not even have realized you’ve been enjoying all this time.
12. Pets improve our social lives.
Building a relationship with an animal can improve your relationships with other people. Owning a pet can lead to simple, direct social interaction, like meeting other pet owners when you walk your dog or bring it to the park. And studies show that pet owners score higher than non-pet-owners in gaining trust, making connections and helping out neighbors. And that’s not to mention the sense of connection and camaraderie among those who own the same types of animals or even breeds of pets. (USA Today)
11. Companion animals ward off loneliness.
Loneliness may affect us throughout our lives. Young people away from home for the first time will experience it, and it comes at us through breakups and divorces, deaths and other separations. The elderly, in particular, often deal with loneliness following the loss of a spouse. Pets can help us through these periods of loneliness. Giving love is as important to our sense of self as receiving it. Even nonhuman connections can offer both. (Caring.com)
10. Pet ownership teaches kids responsibility.
Pets often worry if their kids are responsible enough to handle pets, but they could be overlooking the idea that pet ownership is a powerful tool for teaching children how to be responsible. And that learning can grow with a young child through the years, as his or her developing physical and cognitive capacities allow him or her to take on more complicated pet-care tasks over time. Plus, as children take on more responsibilities, their emotional intelligence and self-esteem grow stronger. (She Knows)
9. Pets improve learning and grades.
Therapy animals have been used for years to help in teaching developmentally disabled kids, but recently, educators have begun to realized that pets can benefit any child in the learning process. Pets provide a calming presence and a nonjudgmental audience for young students. Studies show that kids are more relaxed and experience stress less in with pets than with people. (Parents)
8. Dog owners exercise more.
Are you looking for an excuse to get out and exercise more? Who isn’t? But you know that if you spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on a treadmill, it may end up being a very expensive laundry rack. A dog is a better investment. Besides the companionship of owning a pet, owning a dog is a powerful motivator to get people to go on more walks or runs. And if you get lazy about your own exercise routine, your dog peeing on your carpet will remind you that you need to get outside. (The New York Times)
7. Pets prevent allergies.
One of the most common reasons people may elect not to keep pets is that they are allergic. That’s why it may surprise you to learn that the more children are around pets, the greater the chance they'll have of avoiding pet allergies later in life. In fact, studies have shown that of people who are allergic to cats, 80 percent have never had a cat at home. (WebMD)
6. Pets help lower your cholesterol.
We’ve already discussed how owning an active pet can lead to more exercise for you, so it may not come as a surprise that, as a result, owning an active pet can help you lower triglycerides and cholesterol. But it’s not just the exercise. Owning a cat, for example, can help keep your cholesterol levels healthy, even though you don’t have to take it for a walk or a run every day. (You should still exercise, though. Duh.) (Examiner)
5. Pets help us fight depression.
Our pets don’t help us fight depression just by offering us their boundless affection, but by providing an outlet. Caring for others, even animals, gives us a true sense of purpose. Our pets have a real affect on our happiness. It’s no wonder therapy animals are increasingly being used to help boost people’s moods, and many hospitals and other care facilities are welcoming companion animals more and more. (Animal Planet)
4. Pets reduce stress.
You probably don’t need science to tell you that your pet helps you deal with stress. Whether it’s your loyal dog greeting you after a difficult day at the office, or just quietly stroking your cat while it purrs in comfort, our pets are reliable sources of relaxation. And studies have proven that the presence of companion animals lowers our stress responses in stressful situations. Spending time with pets has been shown to increase levels of endorphins and dopamine within minutes. (How Stuff Works)
3. Pets lower blood pressure.
Statistics show that nearly one out of every three Americans suffer from some degree of hypertension. If you’re one of the 30 percent, owning a pet may help bring your numbers down. We already know that pets decrease stress, which can contribute to high blood pressure. And we also know that taking care of a dog often leads to more exercise, one of the best ways to bring blood pressure to healthy levels. The next time you don’t have a stroke, thank your pet. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
2. Owning pets improves heart health.
We know that owning a pet often leads to more exercise for owners, and can help reduce stress levels as well. It’s only logical to believe, then, that owning a pet may therefore improve physical health — namely cardiovascular health. A review of dozens of studies about pet ownership showed that pet ownership does appear to be associated with a decreased risk of heart disease, according to a statement this month from the American Heart Association. (Time)
Next: Allergy-Friendly Pets
1. Pets can detect disease or other health problems.
Your pet may be even more in tune with your body and your health than you are. Both dogs and cats display the ability to detect a variety of health problems in various ways. Diabetics with dangerously low blood-sugar levels have been awakened in the nick of time by their dogs, and patients with cancer have been alerted to their conditions even before diagnoses were made. While your pet is no substitute for real medical care, you never know when an alert pet’s unique abilities may save your life. (WebMD)