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The 7 Benefits of Pet Ownership

All pets, not just therapy pets, can benefit you physically and mentally. Knowing there’s always someone at home waiting for you is a great feeling. Living with and owning a pet offers health benefits that one may not think or know about.

The 7 Benefits of Pet Ownership

Some days when I come home from a long, stressful day at work there’s nothing better than my big monster of a dog running up to me frantically wagging his tail. I immediately forget about my day and fawn over my dog, feeding off of his energy. Taking him for a walk when I get home helps me to unwind and clear my mind from all the craziness of the day.

Pets can benefit almost anyone. It doesn’t only have to be a cat or a dog; there are tons of options (birds, fish, hamsters, guinea pigs, lizards, turtles…etc.).

  1. Stress, Depression, and Anxiety – Stress can cause serious health issues and affects your immune system. Sometimes we’re so caught up in our problems that we forget to stop, take a moment to relax and enjoy life. A pet is a great reminder to do this. Stop stressing and go play fetch with your dog, get a toy for your cat to chase, or buy a new decoration for your fish tank. This will be enjoyable for both of you and put a smile on your face, no matter what you’re dealing with. Having a pet lessens depression because you have someone there for you all the time. It also lowers anxiety because you can sit down with him or her and unwind. Petting dogs or cats is relaxing for you and your pet. Grooming can also do the same thing. Just like when playing with them, petting and grooming helps to form bonds between you and your pet. Playing or walking with your pet increases levels of serotonin and dopamine, which both have calming and pleasurable affects. Don’t forget about fish, who, when swimming in their tank, can be equally as calming – or a hamster running in its wheel. Pets can help to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, decrease anxiety and depression, and boost your immunity. It has been found that those who suffer from heart disease and own a pet can live a longer, healthier life.
  2. Routine – Another great thing, for most, is that pet ownership forces you to organize your life and gives you more structure and a basic, daily routine to follow. This will cause less stress because you’ll be able to plan your day more easily and know that you’re going to have time to relax.
  3. Exercise – When you take a pet for a walk you get to exercise, breathe fresh air and be outside in the sun, with nature surrounding you. Playing with your pet gets both of you some physical activity and relaxation. These types of workouts can bring you better circulation, stronger muscles and bones, and are a good cardio workout.
  4. Socializing – If you have social anxiety and find it hard to meet people, a pet can do wonders for you. Everyone loves a cute animal! This gives people the chance to come up to you instead of feeling the pressure of getting the courage to go up to them and start a conversation which, for a lot of people, can be difficult.
  5. They Take Care of You, Too – I’ve noticed that some people find it odd, but talking to your pet really helps. No, they can’t answer back, but they are listening. You can tell them anything without receiving judgment or criticism. They can feed off of your heartbeat and emotions and know exactly how you feel and how to act. When I’m scared, my dog puts up his guard and is ready to do anything to protect me. They know when you are sick or feeling depressed and will most likely hang around you so that they can take care of you, the way they would for one of their own.
  6. Children – Surprisingly, children who grow up around dogs and cats have a better chance at not developing allergies and asthma. It also provides them with a stronger immune system. This is thought to be because babies who grow up around allergens and dirt build immunity to it. It will also help them form bonds with the pet, which will benefit them in the long run. With children who have disabilities, a calm dog or a cat may be just what they need to lessen stress from dealing with challenges they may face.
  7. Elderly and Disabled – Pets give those who are older or have disabilities someone to keep them company when they may not have anyone else. It helps them find enjoyment in life. Cats are a good option because they require less care than dogs. But with dogs, when the person is able to do so, walking with them allows one to get out of the house and move around. They can also socialize more, causing them to feel happier and, in turn, healthier. Also, it has been shown that Alzheimer’s patients have fewer episodes when they own and live with a pet. Those who are 65 or older tend to visit the doctor much less and their health issues become a little less serious.

If you have health issues, physical or mental, or simply need someone to be there for you, owning a pet can significantly change your life. Studies have shown that pet friendships are just as healthy and meaningful as human friendships. Find a pet that can become your new best friend and benefit you more than you ever thought.

http://www.webmd.com/hypertension-high-blood-pressure/features/health-benefits-of-pets, 5 Ways Pets Can Improve Your Health, Jeanie Lerche Davis, Retrieved September 5, 2013.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/danielle-hark/pet-ownership-health_b_3187960.html, 12 Ways Your Pet Can Improve Your Mental Health, Danielle Hark, Retrieved September 5, 2013.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/13/pets-psychological-benefits-study_n_897022.html, Steven Hoffer, Retrieved September 5, 2013.

http://www.helpguide.org/life/pets.htm, The Therapeutic Benefits of Pets, Lawrence Robinson and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D, Retrieved September 9, 2013.