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7 Ways Your Pet Makes You Happier and Healthier

Pet ownership has risen steadily over the years to the point that over two-thirds of American households own at least one pet – that’s nearly 85 million homes.[1] Pet owners are a special breed. Not only do they make room for extra members in their families, but they dedicate their time and resources to caring for their pets in every way possible.

Owning a pet is a big responsibility, whether you’re a cat caretaker or a devoted dog owner. What you may not realize is that just as you’re taking care of your pet, your pet may also be taking care of you – both mentally and physically. Here are 7 ways your pet makes you happier and healthier.

1. Pet owners have a more positive outlook on life.

Interacting with the natural world – whether spending the day at the beach or walking your dog – is associated with better mental health and improved well-being.[2] When you’re feeling well, you see the world in a different light. The sun shines a little bit brighter and you feel a natural pep in your step. Spending time with your pet means spending more time in a positive mood. However, if you are experiencing severe mental issues, online therapy can be something to consider.

2. Interacting with a pet may help relieve stress.

Though owning a pet comes with a lot of responsibility, it can also be a great stress reliever. Your pet will never judge you or be disappointed in you – all they ask is that you return a portion of the unconditional love they offer you. Having a source of endless love with no conditions can relieve stress, reduce anxiety, and even boost your immune system. Numerous studies on human-animal interactions show an increase in oxytocin production which plays a key role in stress modulation.[3]

3. Caring for a pet injects structure into your life.

Any dog owner can attest that dogs are creatures of habit. They like to eat their meals at the same time each day and they’ll always expect their evening walk. Having a pet injects a certain degree of structure into your life which could be beneficial for your own health and wellness. Building a routine around your pet’s feeding and exercise habits could help calm anxiety or depression. Simply interacting with your pet may increase serotonin and dopamine production in the brain as well for greater stress relief.[4]

4. Having a pet provides opportunities for social interaction.

We all feel anxious from time to time but if you find it difficult to start a conversation with a stranger or you tend to keep to yourself, having a pet could provide valuable opportunities for social interaction. For one thing, pets are a great conversation starter. Second, taking your dog for his daily walk is a great opportunity to meet other people. In fact, according to a 2015 study conducted in the U.S. and Australia, pet owners are much more likely to interact with people in their neighborhood than non-pet owners.

5. Being a pet owner is associated with improved cardiovascular health.

While being a pet owner comes with a long list of mental health benefits, having a pet could also benefit your physical health – specifically, your cardiovascular health. Numerous studies show a positive correlation between pet ownership and improved cardiovascular health. Pet owners may have lower blood pressure, healthier lipid profiles, and a more favorable response to stress. These benefits combined may contribute to a reduced risk for heart attack as well.[5]

6. Caring for a pet may help make you a better person.

Animal lovers tend to prefer the company of like-minded people, but it may actually go deeper than personal preference. Having a pet could very well make you a better person. A BarkBox study of over 1,000 pet owners revealed that 93% could name at least one way their pet had made them a better person. Being a pet owner requires you to develop a sense of personal responsibility and accountability. You learn important interpersonal skills such as patience, understanding, and empathy which could very well carry over into your human relationships.

7. Pet owners have unlimited access to unconditional love.

On top of all the physical and mental health benefits that come with being a pet owner, perhaps the most important is the unconditional love you gain by having a pet in your life. Having a pet makes you feel needed and it provides a level of companionship that can help fill the void of loneliness and isolation. Your pet simply loves you with their whole heart and asks for nothing in return.

At the end of the day there’s nothing better than being greeted at the door by a furry face and a wagging tail. Simply having a pet in your life means you’re never alone and it could also mean you’ll experience some scientifically supported health benefits. If you’re not yet a pet owner but have been thinking about it, visit your local animal rescue and add a new member to your family. You’ll be saving a life and your pet will thank you in all of the ways listed above.

 About the Author:

Amelia Ma is a freelance writer from Burlingame, California. She enjoys writing articles for professionals that are interested in self-improvement, health, and wellness. In her spare time, you can find her exploring local coffee shops in search of a new favorite.

[1] https://www.americanpetproducts.org/press_industrytrends.asp

[2] https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-44097-3

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3408111/

[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3408111/

[5] https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/full/10.1161/CIR.0b013e31829201e1#:~:text=Numerous%20studies%20have%20explored%20the,responses%20to%20stress%2C%20and%20improved

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