We just got a new puppy this week, so this seems like a great time to take an in-depth look at how our pets affect us. No discussion about health would be complete without mentioning the profound positive effects of pet ownership on both emotional and physical health. The 2017-2018 National Pet Owners Survey found that 68 percent of all U.S. households had a pet. That translates into 85 million families. No wonder social media is filled with cat and dog videos!
Here are five interesting (and sometime surprising!) health benefits of pet ownership:
Pets Fight Allergies
I’ll bet some of you were surprised to read this one. I know I was! Turns out that what we used to believe about pets causing allergies simply wasn’t true. Researchers have found that children who grow up with a cat or dog or who live on a farm with large animals are less likely to develop allergies as well as asthma.
Scientists believe that infants’ early exposure to pet dander and the dirt and yes, germs that come with pet ownership, actually strengthens children’s immune systems. Of course, if your child is already allergic to a particular animal, this does not mean you should expose them further. I’m sure you knew that, but just want to be clear!
Pets Are Great for Senior Citizens
True story: Some insurance companies have begun to ask consumers who are over 75 if they have a pet in the home, as they recognize the positive effects of getting exercise as part of caring for the pet as well as the benefits of animal companionship. Alzheimer’s patients have fewer episodes of anxiety when there is a pet in the home and the very presence of a pet can also benefit caregivers.
Pets Decrease Stress
If you are a pet owner, you know firsthand that simply being in the presence of a beloved pet is extremely soothing (at least most of the time!) In fact, when stroking or petting your dog or cat, your brain is flooded with the ‘feel good’ neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin. These are the same neurochemicals that drive drug addiction. Petting your cat or dog is a much healthier way to feel good!
Pet Are Good for Your Heart
Studies have shown that people who have had a heart attack live longer than heart patients who do not have a pet. Also, owning a cat could lower your chances of having heart disease in the first place. Researchers found that having a pet cat cut the owner’s chances of having a heart attack or stroke by more than a third.
Pet Make You More Social
Pets act as natural ice breakers. A 2015 study published in the journal Plos One found that people who owned pets were more apt to meet their neighbors than non-pet owners. If you’ve ever been out walking your dog, you know that the mere presence of the animal can make starting a conversation easier. The study also suggests that owning other pets can help to forge new social connections as well.
Post A Pic of Your Pet!
Clearly, there’s plenty of evidence that owning a pet is good for your health. I’d love to see a picture of your pet! Just go over to my Facebook page and post a pic of your favorite friend in the comments.
P.S. Fun facts: Cats rule the internet! As of 2105 there were an estimated 2 million cat videos on YouTube alone. This doesn’t even include other social networks. And CNN, that same year, estimated there were an astounding 6.5 billion cat pictures on the internet.
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