I read something once that said: “Pets leave paw prints on your heart.” Ask any loving pet owner how they feel about their treasured animal and the responses all sound about the same. They love their pets and couldn’t imagine life without them. For some, the special role that an animal plays in their life can mean the difference between happiness and loneliness.
Humans can benefit from pets in much the same way they do from their friends. According to an article in Time magazine (1), a growing literature in psychology has already shown that among the elderly or the very ill, caring for a pet can help stave off loneliness and even improve physical health. But the study wanted to take this a step further and see if the same benefits applied to people who aren’t isolated or lonely. What the researchers found out was that people can derive joy and meaning from their pets even when they already have other friends and family to care about them.
According to helpguide.org, “dogs in particular can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, ease loneliness, encourage exercise and playfulness, and even improve your cardiovascular health.” So why is it that these feline friends and four-legged pooches give us such a good outlook on life and help with our mental and physical health?
5 ways pets help us
1. Pets get you outside and keep you active
Having a dog almost always means you will be taking a walk outside daily and getting fresh air and vitamin D. And if you have outdoor cats, playing with them out in the yard can encourage outdoor time for you as well.
2. Pets provide companionship and unconditional love
This is especially important to pet owners who might live alone or be grieving the loss of a loved one.
3. Pets make you responsible
When you care for an animal, it can help you feel needed as they look to you for care, love, and companionship.
4. Pets reduce stress and help promote touch
The act of repetitively petting your animal can help calm nerves, distract you from the problems of the day, and help you feel connected to something else.
5. Pets (especially dogs) can reduce isolation
Most dog owners will tell you that as soon as they walk through the door, their faithful companion is ready and waiting to head outside. Dog parks, walking trails, and neighbourhoods enable owners to walk their dog and connect with other people .