Pets have always been a source of joy, but especially in the last 12 months. Under lockdown, those of us with pets turned to them for solace, affection, and companionship; many others adopted a cat or a dog. In addition to the simple joy we get from sharing our life with our pets, there are also real, measurable medical and well-being benefits that come from interacting with animals. Here are five ways our animal companions help us lead healthier, happier lives.
1. Exercise and Socialisation
Two benefits in one! Pet owners are generally more active day-to-day and tend to exercise more than non-pet owners. Staying fit and active, whatever your age, helps to prevent a whole host of illnesses, and pets give people that motivation to keep moving. While out walking the dog, pet owners are found to be more social, with a better ability to fend off feelings of loneliness and isolation. This is true for humans of any age but is especially true for elderly pet owners. Essentially, a pet helps you interact with people, which is good for you.
2. They lower your stress levels.
Modern life is stressful and high levels of anxiety can lead to numerous health problems. Luckily, pets can help us relax – snuggles on the sofa with your cat, dog, hamster or rabbit can reduce stress by decreasing the levels of cortisol (a stress-related hormone) and lift our mood due to the so-called happy hormones, or endorphins, that it releases.
3. Pets Boost Heart Health
When a pet stares into our eyes, our body releases a surge of oxytocin, a hormone that plays a role in maternal bonding and trust. It also so happens that oxytocin lowers blood pressure! Studies have proven that pet owners tend to have
lower blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels than people who don’t own a pet. That means having a furry pal can decrease the chances of suffering a heart attack later in life.
4. Pets and Mental Health
Depression is another potentially debilitating condition that can be helped by owning a pet. Dogs especially are great at encouraging owners to get exercise, and this can be beneficial for those suffering from depression. The companionship that a pet offers is a great way to reduce anxiety and stress. Pets can have a calming effect on their owner. Just by stroking, sitting next to or playing with a pet can give owners a chance to relax and calm their minds. Caring for a pet also gives your day purpose and reward, and a sense of achievement. It helps you feel valuable and needed.
5. Pets Boost Your Immune System
Studies have shown that babies who live with cats and dogs are less likely to develop allergies and asthma later in childhood — and the more pets they have, the better! Your pet's presence helps to activate your immune system response, which in turn increases your immunity against allergies.