Having a pet can be good for our mental and physical health in several ways. Let’s look at some of the ways that having the unconditional love of an animal companion can improve our health.
Pets can make great companions
When we have a pet, we have a constant companion. Whether hamster, gerbil, rabbit, cat, bird, or dog, pets are there for us when we need them. Pets give unconditional love any time of the day, or night. Some pets, of course, are cuddlier than others and can give us more reciprocal love and affection than others, but receiving love in any form is a natural health booster.
Pets can be a source of comfort, especially during difficult times, making them an important part of our lives. They are there for us to talk to, especially when we are alone; just knowing there is another living creature in our home can boost our moods.
Caring for a pet gives us something meaningful to do each day
Dogs can be the perfect pet – they can help us stay active, and that turns into helping keep us healthy both physically and mentally.
If you have a dog, they might always be excited when you walk into the room, or when you get home from a day away. Their uncontained joy and excitement is sure to bring a smile to your face — and smiles release endorphins into our bodies which make us feel better from head to toe.
Having to walk a dog at least twice a day, gets us to move and get outside for some fresh air. It’s not totally enjoyable in the rain or snow, but the walks don’t have to be long to be beneficial! Also, if it’s difficult for us to make friends, walking our dog in our neighborhood will enable us to meet our neighbors – or at least to meet other dogs in the area and that can give us smiles!
Even if we’re only taking care of our pets a couple times of day, that’s time that isn’t spent sitting on a couch in front of the television, or scrolling through our phones!
Cats and other pets may not need daily walking, but all pets need to be fed and cleaned up after each day – and we should be giving them love and attention, too, and all of those things add meaning to our lives.
Pets can help reduce stress
The benefits of pet therapy in helping reduce stress are well-documented. Studies have shown that pet owners have lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, as well as improved cardiac function.
We don’t need to have a certified therapy animal to reduce stress, any pet that we’re able to provide shelter to and give our love and attention to, especially if we’re able to pet them or brush them, can help lower our stress by giving us something enjoyable to focus on.
The repetitious nature of brushing or petting a dog, cat, or rabbit, for instance, can have a calming, almost meditative effect on the body, and that helps keeps stress at bay.
By having a pet to care for, we have something we can control in our lives, and that can help lower anxiety and stress, since much in today’s world is uncontrollable.
Spending time with our furry friends gives us opportunities for quiet moments where we don’t have anything else going on besides petting them and talking about whatever comes up at that time.
Have you ever gone into a bit of a trance watching fish swim back and forth in a tank? Have you sat near a window as a cat watched a bird that was nearby? Have you stared at a hamster or gerbil running full out in a wheel? Each of these activities pulls us outside of our thoughts and into new moments, and these moments can lower stress and anxiety.
Pets can improve our mental health
Pets provide companionship and affection, which has been linked to improved mental health, particularly in older adults.
We aren’t alone when we have a pet, and, bonus, they give us their unconditional love and affection while keeping us company! Yes, dogs are more outwardly affectionate than cats, but cat owners do take comfort with their pets.
Pets can give us a sense of responsibility for another living thing’s well-being and make us feel less isolated or alone in the world. Part of feeling well overall comes from feeling needed and appreciated, and pets bring that to us.
The physical activity we get each day from having a pet – whether it’s walking the dog, bending over and picking the pet up, cleaning litter boxes or cages, or feeding the pet – we’re moving more than if we did not have a pet to take care of. Any physical activity is always good for improving our overall mental and physical health. We don’t need to be a marathon runner or a rock star weight lifter to get the benefits of daily movement.
Full hearts, big smiles
Having a pet can keep our hearts full (and healthy) and keep us smiling (and releasing doses of endorphins)!