Pet Positivity: How Owning a Pet Helps Your Health
April 11th is National Pet Day and in honor of our loyal companions, Centura College gives insight to some of the health benefits of owning a pet.
Written by: Esperanza Poquiz Edited by: Jul DeGeus
Having a pet companion has more benefits than you can even imagine. They can give you pure joy just by the way they cock their head and look at you, or give you that rush of excitement when you return home from a long day at work or school, which in itself are all the benefits one might need. Sure, they are cute and fun to play with, but having a furry, feathery, and even scaly friend also comes with responsibility, which believe it or not, can still have a positive impact on your life. Being a pet parent can actually make your life, mentally, emotionally, and physically better. So, let’s break down some reasons on why having a pet can be enjoyable and beneficial:
Animals are known to show unconditional love, which can decrease depression. Becoming a pet parent can help combat the feelings of loneliness through companionship. I know what you’re thinking, pets are fun to have and all, but pets take a lot of work, and money, to keep them happy and healthy. What you may fail to realize is that even the tedious tasks that come with owning a pet can have great benefits for your mental health. Think about it, your pet relies on you for almost everything and thrives on having your love and attention. It’s always nice to feel wanted, let alone needed, and your pet’s dependency give you a sense of purpose you might otherwise be lacking because of depression. Knowing that you have someone relying on you to wake up every morning and take care of them is a great motivator for you to get up out of bed and get your day started. (1)
In addition to all the comforting benefits your pet may bring you, research has shown that having a pet can have a positive impact on your overall health. Owning a pet can lower your blood pressure, improve your immunity, and decrease the risk of a heart attack or stroke. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institute of Health (NIH) have conducted studies on people who own pets. Their results have revealed that pet owners confirm signs in decreased cholesterol, blood pressure, and triglyceride levels, all of which reduce the risk of heart attacks. (2) If someone has already faced one of these issues, owning a pet can speed up your recovery rate and have you back to taking care of yourself and pet companion in no time!
Owning a pet can improve your social skills by helping you meet new people. Your pet can serve as a conversation starter, enabling you to interact with more people who share a common interest. Going for a walk or bringing your pup to the dog park or training class can put you in a situation where there are plenty of people willing to have conversations that involve you both gushing over your four legged friends. If big social settings aren’t your forte, but you love being out of the house, try going to pet friendly cafes. Dining with your furry friend is a rapidly growing fad these days and more cafes are starting to cater it. Owners can enjoy a quiet meal at their favorite restaurant without having to take a doggy bag home for your fur-baby bestie. Not a big dog person? If cats, birds, fish or reptiles are more your thing and you don’t usually take your pet out, don’t worry! You can still meet plenty of people online through social media with the same interests/pet as you from the comfort of your own home! (3)
Don’t have a pet? No problem! Just by having interactions with someone else’s pet or meeting with therapy animals can decrease stress. Playing or petting an animal can increase oxytocin, the stress reducing hormone, and decrease cortisol, the hormone known to cause stress. Playing with an animal can promote levels of serotonin and dopamine, nerve transmitters that are known to have pleasant and soothing properties.(1) If you suffer from stress anxiety, and you don’t want the responsibility of having a pet of your own, try volunteering at an animal shelter, or offer to pet sit. Not only will you be helping others, you will be able to relieve some of your stress in the process!
So there you have it, just a few of the many reasons why having a pet can be beneficial. The bond you create with your pet is something that can last you a lifetime, giving you memories that are irreplaceable. Not only can pets bring you joy and love to your life, they can also help save yours.
- Davis, J. L. (2004). 5 Ways Pets Can Improve Your Health. Retrieved April 10, 2017, from https://www.webmd.com/hypertension-high-blood-pressure/features/health-benefits-of-pets#3
- McCandless, S. G. (2012, August 22). No. 3: Stay Heart Healthy. Retrieved April 10, 2017, from https://www.animalplanet.com/pets/no-3-stay-heart-healthy/
- Holland, E. (2017, February 13). 7 Health Benefits of Owning a Pet. Retrieved April 10, 2017, from https://www.chopra.com/articles/7-health-benefits-of-owning-a-pet#sm.00080x16bxntf9c100m17enhork0y