Having a pet around the house is like having a friend who is always by your side. Pets are not just great for companionship, however – studies have shown that pet ownership provides some very real health benefits for you and your family.
Top Benefits of Pet Ownership
The top five benefits associated with owning a dog or cat are listed below:
1. Stronger Immune System – It may seem counterintuitive, but having a pet in the house can actually reduce your susceptibility to allergies. According to pediatrician James E. Gern from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, having a pet in the home can reduce a child’s risk for developing allergies by as much as 33%. Children who grow up with pets also tend to have stronger, more developed immune systems in general. If you already suffer from allergies, adding a dog or cat to the family may not help, but it can be a benefit for those who do not suffer from allergies yet, especially children.
2. Improved Heart Health – According to studies conducted by the National Institute of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, having a pet can improve the health of your heart. According to these studies, pet owners tend to have lower blood pressure and lower cholesterol levels as well. Both of these factors contribute to a reduced risk for heart attack and stroke. If you have already suffered a heart attack, having a dog or cat around may help to speed your recovery.
3. Great Conversation Starter – Though many people joke about using a cute kitten or puppy to attract the attention of members of the opposite sex, it really can work. Dogs in particular are something of an instant icebreaker in social situations, especially when you are meeting new people. A dog will walk right up to someone and instantly form a connection – all you have to do is follow along. Taking your dog to a training class is a great way to meet like-minded individuals, as are dog parks and outdoor cafes. There are even several pet-focused sites for social networking that help pet lovers unite.
4. Increased Exercise Motivation – If you own a dog, one of your most basic responsibilities is to provide your dog with adequate exercise, often in the form of a daily walk. In taking your dog for daily walks you not only help your dog to work off excess energy, but you can improve your fitness as well. According to studies conducted by the National Institute of Health, dog owners have a much lower risk for obesity than non-dog owners. Of course, you have to actually walk the dog yourself to receive this benefit, you cannot just pass it off to a dog walker.
5. Improved Mood and Self Worth – The beauty of owning a pet is that your dog or cat will love you unconditionally. The companionship provided by a pet can help to mitigate feelings of depression or anxiety and it can boost your mood overall. Studies have shown that pet ownership is particularly beneficial among the sick and the elderly, especially those who receive animal-assisted therapy.
Owning a dog or cat can be a big responsibility sometimes, but it is definitely worth it. The benefits listed above are just a few of the many ways that owning a pet can improve your health.