Any pet owner will tell you – pets are simply awesome. There’s nothing like being greeted at the front door with unconditional love when you come home. (Or lovingly ignored, in the case of some cats.) And it’s amazing how quickly you can be nudged out of a bad mood by a nose nuzzle.
Our pets entertain us and make us feel happy and less alone in the world. There’s no doubt about it, they give back far more than they take.
10 surprising ways your pet makes YOU healthier
But guess what? Pets don’t just make us feel better, it turns out they actually make us healthier too.
1. Less stress:
Playing with your pet can be like taking a natural chill pill. Experts tell us owning a pet lowers our stress levels. There’s a reason therapy animals exist. Nothing works to calm someone down quite the same way as fur therapy. One study even showed that people were less anxious during stressful situations when they had a pet with them than when they were accompanied by a spouse or friend.
2. Lower blood pressure:
Pet owners tend to have lower blood pressure. Stress and blood pressure are intricately linked, so it follows that people with less stress have lower blood pressure too. In fact, one study even revealed that just talking to a dog can lower your blood pressure. And it turns out it’s not just your pet that benefits from petting, a study published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine revealed it lowers your blood pressure too.
3. Better cholesterol:
Believe it or not studies show that pet owners tend to have better cholesterol numbers than their non-pet owning friends. Scientists aren’t entirely sure how this works yet. More research is needed to nail down whether it’s the pet, or the healthy lifestyle, that comes first. But the numbers are clear, if you own a pet you’re likely to have better cholesterol.
4. Heart attack protection:
With its links to lower blood pressure and better cholesterol, pet ownership is clearly good for your heart. Naturally you’re less likely to suffer from a heart attack. But if a heart attack should still strike, it turns out being a pet owner could be a true life saver. Dog and cat parents have significantly better heart attack recovery rates.
5. Stroke protection:
Pet owners are a stunning 40 percent less likely to suffer a stroke than non-pet owners! Which means that guard dog (or bird or cat) of yours isn’t just helping keep your home safe, he’s protecting your heart and brain too.
6. Pain relief:
Pets ease chronic pain. In one study researchers found that dogs significantly reduced pain and emotional distress in chronic pain patients. As it turns out, pets are kind of a natural valium. Valium works to reduce pain by easing anxiety. Pets ease chronic pain the same way, only without any side effects besides leaving some fur behind on the living room couch.
7. Health monitoring:
Pets are very tuned in to what’s happening with your health. Which makes them a natural at alerting you if you’re going to have a seizure, or if your blood sugar drops dangerously low. In fact, they’re so good at sensing blood sugar levels that there’s at least one organization that trains pets specifically for this purpose. Others are exploring dog’s abilities to sniff out certain cancers.
8. Allergy fighting:
Research has found that kids who have pets in the home develop fewer allergies. And while it’s too late for us to reap this health benefit of pet ownership, your kids and grandkids still can. Children who grow up around furry friends have fewer allergies and stronger immune systems!
9. Staying active:
Pets can help keep you active. If you’ve got a dog, you’re by default a dog walker. But even if your pet is a cat or a bunny, they still need to be played with and cared for. Cleaning up after them, giving them attention, and even just getting out for more pet supplies keeps you on the move. It turns out keeping your pet happy and healthy helps keep you happy and healthy too.
10. Mood lifting:
Pets are natural mood lifters. They give us constant companionship, lots of laughter, and unconditional love without ever asking for anything in return. And these personality traits in your favorite four-legged friend can help improve your mood, whether you’re just having a bad day or you’re struggling with chronic depression. Plus, caring for a pet who depends on you can give you a sense of purpose, which is key when recovering from depression – or the blues.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a dog person, a cat person, or a bird person. There’s a pet out there for you. Everyone could use another friend, and one that helps keep you healthy is even better!