Dogs can be needy and exhausting. They always want to play at the exact moment you want to relax, you endure frigid walks in the winter to get them exercise, and wherever you walk in the house they’re close behind, nipping at your heels. Cats by contrast can be demanding and independent. If you sleep in past their breakfast time, behold the wrath of a hungry cat. When you want to snuggle, they run in the other direction; when you’re diligently working on your laptop, they insist on plopping down right on the keyboard.
But there’s a reason why millions of pet owners wouldn’t live a day without them. Whatever annoyances come along with your furry family member, they also come with a whole host of health benefits for your mind, and for your body.
Read through 6 popular theories on why pets are good for your health…and keep that in mind whenever their quirky behavior tests your patience!
1. Pets are good exercise. Whether it’s taking the dog for daily walks down your street or torturing your cat with a string you’ll never let him catch, it all spells MOVEMENT. When you’d otherwise be an immobile couch potato staring at one of a thousand channels, your pet demands your affection and your playtime. Even in small increments, that adds up to more calories burned and just might keep your waistline from expanding.
2. Pets are good for your heart. The American Heart Association confirms that there’s a link between pet ownership and lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, less likelihood of obesity, and other cardiovascular concerns. There are a variety of possible reasons for this – maybe it’s the extra exercise, maybe it’s pets’ ability to calm and relax you. Which brings us to Number 3…
3. Pets make you happy. Obviously your pet is a big fan of it, but petting your cat or dog also makes YOU feel good. Studies have found that showing your pet affection increases your levels of serotonin and dopamine, chemicals that make you feel relaxed and happy. Not a fan of fur? Some say even watching your goldfish circle aimlessly in an aquarium helps relieve muscle tension and lower your pulse.
4. Pets make you sociable. Relationships and friendships are often founded on common ground. That is, when you stand on the sidelines at the dog park, you have something to chat with the other humans about…your dogs. Even posting silly pictures of your cat or dog on social networking sites instantly creates buzz and chatter.
5. Pets give you self-esteem. The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology reported that pet owners have higher self-esteem and a greater sense of belonging. Maybe it’s because after even the worst day, you can come home and be soothed by your furry friend. Maybe it’s their unconditional love that never judges or argues with you. Maybe it’s that they rely on you and make you feel needed. However it works, it just makes you feel good.
6. Pets make your kids happy. First and foremost, pets make great friends for your children. They help them grow into loving, affectionate adults. They also teach them responsibility when you remind your child to walk the dog or feed the cat or throw their toy. Pets inspire any number of positive traits in children: imagination, curiosity, perseverance, and joy.