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How interacting with an animal is beneficial for your health

Woman jumping for joy with her dog

Owning a pet is good for your health!

© Unsplash

We love pets. On a bad day, a wagging tail or friendly leg rub can make everything better but did you know owning a dog or cat could be good for your health?

By Natasha James

Updated on the 08/02/2021, 13:24

Great news for animal lovers everywhere, it seems that the benefits of pet ownership are many and varied. Not only do we get unconditional love from our furry friends but they can be great for our physical and mental health too.

A number of studies have been carried out which prove what we already knew, owning a pet is good for us.

How do animals help humans?

Animals help humans in many different ways. From the cows that provide us with milk, the horses that take us where we need to go and the sheep that provide the warmth to get us there, our furry counterparts have been invaluable to us humans since time began.

But, studies have shown that as well as the practical help that animals give us, they can provide a number of benefits for our health and well being too.

How do pets improve our health?

Caring for an animal has all manner of health benefits. They’ll encourage us to play more, get us out of the house for exercise on the days we can’t face it and so much more besides.

  • Pets can lower stress levels

Pet owners can attest to the fact that playing with their cat or dog for 20 minutes can truly turn their mood around. Scientific evidence has also suggested that a cat’s purr can lower your blood pressure!

  • Pets can improve our cardiovascular health

A recent study from Harvard Health has suggested that dog owners have a reduced risk of heart attacks and strokes. The benefits were even greater for those owning certain breeds such as Retrievers and Terriers.

  • Pets can help with loneliness

How can you possibly feel lonely when you have the unconditional love of a pet dog or cat? Cats and dogs make wonderful companions and really help to banish feelings of loneliness.

How can dogs help with lifestyle changes?

Pets can even help you to become more sociable. This is especially true for dog owners who will take regular walks and visit dog parks with their pup. What’s more, people seem much more inclined to strike up a conversation with you if you have a dog and knowing you’re both dog lovers can be a great conversation starter.

The health benefits for children

Thinking of getting a pet but not sure if it’s a great idea when you have children at home? It most certainly is! When children are exposed to cats and dogs in their first years of life, they’re likely to develop a stronger immune system that fights all manner of allergens.

For children with additional needs, the benefits of pet ownership are immense. Children with autism often have sensory issues and the feel of a dog or cat’s fur can get them used to how things feel against their skin, pets may also help to calm them during periods of heightened anxiety.

Children with ADHD can also benefit hugely from owning a pet. Playing with a pet is a great way for the child to release energy and the responsibility of pet care ownership can teach additional needs children valuable skills that may carry through to other areas of their life.

The health benefits for elderly adults

For elderly pet owners who live alone, pets have been shown to reduce stress and lower anxiety. What’s more, pet ownership is likely to increase social interactions and encourage older adults to exercise and get out more.

Health benefits pets on humans

How to find the perfect pet

It’s tempting to see the cutest puppy or fluffiest cat and want to take them home right away but adopting a pet is about so much more than cuteness! If you’re contemplating pet ownership then consider the following:

Lifestyle – Think about your lifestyle and the breed temperament of the pet in question. A Golden Retriever or Border Terrier is the perfect option if you have bags of energy and love to be outdoors but if you’re looking for a pet who will curl up on your lap each evening, a cat or small dog could be a wiser choice.

Do your sums – Pet ownership doesn’t always come cheap. Look into the pet you want and check out likely food bills and insurance costs. 

Take our pet finder quiz – Still not sure which pet is right for you?

Frequently asked questions

Is it important to walk a dog?

How do I care for my cat?

Should I get a rescue dog?