There is something satisfying and enriching about the symbiotic relationship people have with their dog or cat. Studies show that having a pet makes your life better, happier and healthier.
A pet is a responsibility as well as a considerable expense. Like a child, a pet needs feeding, attention, love, training, medical care, exercise, toys and more. But the value an animal can add to your life is undeniable.
Happiness: A pet is a great companion. A dog or cat will offer you unconditional love, cheer and cuddling. Even if you are blue, the animal's needs, and often its nose or paw, will provide a gentle nudge to get going. A pet is a great way for you to combat loneliness, have more interaction and, in some ways, gain a sense of purpose. A dog's ability to empathize and comfort is why more hospitals and nursing homes use Pet-facilitated Therapy (PFT) or Animal-assisted Therapy (AAT) to cheer up patients. A smile on a dog can make you smile.
Stress and Heart Health: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other organizations have conducted heart-related studies on people with pets. They have repeatedly shown that pet owners generally have decreased blood pressure and cholesterol levels than non-pet owners, which reduces the risks for having a heart attack. If you have already suffered a heart attack, research shows that you will recover better if you have a dog or a cat. One theory is that the pet's companionship helps reduce your overall stress levels.
Physical Activity: Exercise for your dog is exercise for you, the pet's parent, which is another reason animals are beneficial to their humans' health. A dog can act as a demanding personal trainer, forcing you to get up, go outside and walk several times each day. Taking a hike, jogging and even swimming can be a fun joint physical activity. Throwing a ball in the yard or park as well as playing chase or tug-of-war are great exercise for both you and your pet. (Sorry cat owners, dogs rule on this one.)
Social Interaction: Animals are instant icebreakers, whether as a topic for conversation or as an ice-breaker when you take them along while eating outdoors, walking or sitting in the park. As many men have learned, a dog is a great chick magnet.
Allergies: If you or your children have allergies and you are worried that having a pet would be an issue, you can put your mind at ease. Studies in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunologyshow the opposite. Growing up in a home with furry pets can actually strengthen your child's immune system and lessen his or her likelihood of developing pet allergies.
The joy that comes with sharing your life with four-legged companions is undeniable (at least for those of you who already have one). The fun of having a pet makes your life better and the physical health benefits add up.