Benefits of Having a Pet

Life can be so stressful, and especially during times of great uncertainty, anxiety can take a toll on us mentally, emotionally, and even physically. There are many things we can do to reduce stress, and one of them is–you guessed it– having a pet. The benefits of having a pet are incredible. Not only does having a dog or cat enrich life from the standpoint of companionship, but also, studies show that dogs can help reduce stress in their human counterparts. Primarily, proximity to our furry friends can actually have positive effects on blood pressure and hormones.

There are many benefits of having a pet from lower stress levels to companionship to even greater heart health!

Pets Lower Stress Hormones

Spending time with your dog or cat likely improves your mood, and makes you feel better; but research also shows time with pets actually helps to reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol. The body secretes cortisol in response to stress. In a recent study with findings published in AERA Open, scientists recruited 249 college students to measure the effects of encounters with cats and dogs on cortisol levels. The analysis revealed overall that students who interacted with the animals had significantly lower cortisol levels after the encounters. This effect was the result regardless of whether cortisol levels were high or low beforehand.

Lower Blood Pressure with Time Around Pets

Having a dog, or cat, may make you less likely to get heart disease. Let that sink in. In many cases, dog owners walk more and are more active, which can have a profound effect on heart health. Also, the simple act of petting a dog not only warms the heart, but also helps your body release a relaxation hormone while also lowering blood pressure. Bonus? It soothes your pet too!

Dogs are Social Magnets

Who doesn’t love meeting a cute dog on a walk or out on the patio of a restaurant where you’re eating? Pets can serve the purpose of connecting us to others, and being socially engaged comes with its own health benefits. Social connection has a profound impact on mental and emotional health– whether it’s the connection you share with the pet itself, or the people with whom you interact as a result of having such a cute dog or cat that draws them right in.

The benefits of having a pet are great, and pets can even contribute to healthier immune systems for babies!

Benefits for Developing Immune Systems

As if you needed more reasons to have pets, studies have shown that babies born into homes where pets are present have a reduced risk of developing allergies and obesity. Exposure to animals during the few few months of life can affect the levels of two different types of gut bacteria–Ruminococcus, linked with lower risk of allergic diseases, and Oscillospira, which is associated with leanness. These gut bacterias are increased by double when there are pets in the house. Cats and dogs alike carry these healthy bacteria on their bodies, so proximity to the pets– via cuddles and kisses– can result in the transfer of these immune-boosting bacteria.

No matter how you slice it, pet ownership and interacting with cats and dogs can have myriad benefits– mental, physical, and even emotional. From loyal companionship to lower stress levels and even healthier immune systems, these wonderful creatures enrich our lives in countless ways. Pets can help their owners through bouts of depression, they can aid in the social development of children with autism, and simply being near them can result in greater heart health for their owners. What did we do to deserve animals?