Before bringing a fur baby home, potential owners understandably want to weigh the pros and cons of pet ownership. Pets require so much time and effort, but keep in mind you have plenty to gain in return.
As you make your decision, consider this—pets improve both mental and physical health in countless ways. They offer so many health benefits, we couldn’t list them all here!
Check out eight of the top ways a pet can completely transform your health.
- Lower risk of cardiovascular disease: Pet owners tend to be more physically active than people who don’t have pets. Activities like long walks, fetch and using cat toys engage your cardiovascular system as well as your pet’s. Regular exercise can minimize factors that contribute to heart attacks and stroke. Pet parents typically have decreased cholesterol, lower blood pressure and fewer triglycerides, a type of molecule found in body fat.
- Fewer allergies and respiratory diseases: People who are exposed to cats and dogs as infants develop less severe allergic reactions to pet dander as they grow up. Animals can also decrease sensitivity to other environmental allergens like dust, mold and pollen. Kids who grow up around pets have a reduced risk of developing asthma, and they’re less prone to viral respiratory infections.
- Chronic pain relief: Many people experience some form of chronic pain due to aging, lifelong conditions, medical procedures and injuries. No matter the cause of pain, patients have consistently reported an overall reduction in discomfort after completing pet therapy. This is because snuggling up to a friendly pet releases endorphins in the brain. The effect of pets is so powerful, many people require fewer doses of pain medication!
- Overall physical fitness: You don’t have to be an athlete to get in shape. A furry exercise buddy is all you need! Pets require lots of physical activity, which encourages owners to stand up and get the blood pumping. They’re a great motivator for those beginning their fitness journey and provide good company during workouts. Over time, you may start to notice greater cardiovascular endurance, muscle tone and weight loss.
- Reduced levels of stress: Our moods instantly brighten up the second we see an adorable puppy waiting for us at home. Simply being in the same room as a pet raises the brain’s oxytocin levels, a neurochemical that makes you happy. In fact, a cat or dog’s mere presence is enough to reduce stress while performing difficult tasks, both mental and physical. Stress relief can improve mental health and increase your resilience to tackle what lies ahead.
- Self-esteem booster: On average, pet parents have a healthier perception of themselves compared to non-owners. Dogs show unconditional love no matter how much you weigh, what you look like, how many friends you have or how much money you make. People also get a major confidence boost when they realize they’re capable of caring for another living being. Due to this boost in confidence, pet parents often find themselves taking on leadership roles that come with a lot of responsibility.
- More socialization: It can be really hard to put yourself out there. Many people feel anxious at the thought of making new friends or reaching out to family members they haven’t seen in a while. Pets are the perfect ice breaker to help ease tension among shy individuals. They’re a fun, lighthearted conversation starter anyone can relate to at parties and family reunions. Plus, cats and dogs can get you connected to a network of fellow pet parents who offer support in other facets of life, too.
- Greater sense of purpose: Older adults and people struggling with depression often feel as if they have nothing valuable to offer society. A pet can elevate feelings of self-worth and purpose because taking care of an animal means you’re putting good back into the world. Donations and charitable efforts are great, but caring for a pet allows people to witness the impact they have on their immediate surroundings. Pets will never hesitate to let you know when they want food or play time, which can pull you out of a mental slump. In other words, they make you feel needed!
If you’re on the fence about adopting a pet, the choice is obvious. Everyone has something to gain from living with a furry companion. Cats and dogs require effort on your part, but that’s nothing compared to the immeasurable joy and unconditional love you’ll get in return. Take this as a sign that it’s time to adopt!