Anyone who has ever lived with a cat or dog knows they increase our happiness quotient. But did you know that they actually improve our health? Multiple studies have proven what pet lovers intuitively have known forever. Pets are good for what ails you! The health benefits of pets keep us active, engaged, and happy, stress-free, and so much more.
So do you know all the benefits of pets for human health? Read on!
There are Multiple Health Benefits of Pets: Stress Busters & Heart Attack Recovery
The health benefits of owning pets, especially the ability to calm us down, help enormously during these stressful times. We’re obsessing over the economy, cost of gas, health care, natural disasters, the pandemic, missing family and friends, and so much more. We need all the stress-busting help we can find.
In fact, health insurance companies should give pet owners a cost break on premiums. Studies show that people with pets get sick less often, and recover more quickly than those without animal friends. Infants and children who grow up with furry companions are less likely to develop allergies as they mature.
And those unfortunate individuals who have suffered a heart attack—and own pets—will recover more quickly and survive longer than heart attack survivors without pets. There actually are a few enlightened physicians who prescribe a pet for their heart attack patients.
Pets Lower Blood Pressure Without Medication
People with a dog or cat experience only half as much blood pressure increase when stressed, as those without a pet. Half! Could you benefit from that kind of stress relief? The research shows that your pet doesn’t even have to be present for this “pet effect” to work. It’s simply enough to know he’s waiting at home.
Petting and stroking any friendly dog or cat also lowers blood pressure, so if you’re pet-less, you could volunteer at the shelter or get your fur-fix at a neighbor’s home. Petting is especially effective, though, when it’s your own animals.
Sometimes pets even lower blood presser more effectively than medication. That’s because the act of speaking dramatically increases blood pressure, and drugs don’t block this effect. The only thing that counters elevated blood pressure that results from talking is focusing on something outside yourself–like a pet. Simply sitting quietly with your dog or cat each day can soothe your soul.
Pets Increase Our Exercise
Part of the pet effect has to do with increased exercise. I know that my exercise increased when I have a dog to walk. Magical-Dawg demanded a game of fetch outside several times each day, and that got me up and moving. After he died, my outside activity decreased and weight went up. But even a kitty can get us exercising more–after all, trips to the store to tote cat litter and food home requires me to leave the house.
Our best intentions to sign up for a class at the gym may come to naught. But dogs like Shadow-Pup won’t take “no” for an answer. And cats like Karma-Kittywon’t let me sleep late, if the food bowl is empty.
Exercise relieves anxiety, boredom, and depression. While others may look askance at goofy-acting humans, it’s “legal” to play and have fun with your pets–which is as good for our own mental health as it is for the cats and dogs. Set aside time every day to play like a cat or dog–and you’ll feel better for it. That’s probably why, when the pandemic kept us apart, many folks adopted pets to snuggle and interact with.
Pets Are A Social Lubricant
Pets keep us connected socially, too. Walking the dog or talking “cats” at the pet food aisle at the grocery encourages contact that keeps us interested in life and other people. That’s great for people of any age, but especially helpful for seniors who might otherwise become reclusive. They have to get out to care for the dog or cat (or bird or hamster) even if they might neglect their own needs. And if worried about outliving a pet, seniors can adopt senior pets to mutual benefit.
Just to show that I’m not making this stuff up, here’s a “hard science” example. Positron emission tomography (PET scan) is an imaging test that helps physicians to detect biochemical changes used to diagnose and monitor various health conditions. These tests show that touching a pet shuts down the pain-processing centers of the brain. Petting your dog or cat relieves your own pain and also buffers anxiety, all without the side effects of Valium. A cat or dog on your lap can ease the pain in your ass-ets.
The Bond of Love Makes A Positive Furry Difference
People talk about “the bond” all the time when referring to the pets we love. It’s nothing magical, although it may seem so. But science can actually measure this pet effect as well. There are many health and psychological benefits of bonding with a pet dog or cat. For instance, studies have shown that cats can sniff out human stress vs happiness, and react accordingly. Many studies show that dogs, cats, horses and even cows can tell from body odor the emotional state of the person they sniff. And which nostril they use (in cats) also may matter…fascinating stuff! No wonder animals seem so attuned to us.
In fact, changes in brain chemicals influence our thought and attitudes. These chemicals prompt feelings of elation, safety, tranquility, happiness, satisfaction, even love. Blood tests that measure these chemicals reveal the levels increase for people–AND for the pets!–when bonding takes place. There’s a reciprocal benefit to bonding with your fur-kid.
Don’t discount the pet effect in your life. I’ve lost weight since the Shadow-Pup arrived, chasing after him and walking the 13+ acres of our place. (Karma cat has also lost weight since playing with the pup. Learn more about fighting obesity in pets here.)
The Karma-Kat always seems to know when I have a headache and helps purr it away. A furry prescription costs only a handful of kibbles. There’s no insurance premium to pay, and everyone qualifies for the benefits. And that’s a wagging, purring blessing for everyone. Of course, we want to ensure our companions also stay healthy.
How do YOUR pets help you? Does the dog get you up-and-at-’em in the morning? Do tell!
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Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!