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In honor of National Love Your Pet Day, I continued research on the benefits of pet companionship. I started down that trail earlier this week when I read about the connection between caring for pets and better brain health.
Most households in the US have at least one pet. Cats outnumber dogs in the United States, however, slightly more households prefer dogs as their favorite furry companion. And of course, pets include more than dogs and cats. Pet ownership includes birds, reptiles, spiders, insects, fish, frogs, rabbits, pigs, horses…the list goes on and on.
Whether you love on a dog, a cat or another animal…or practically run a zoo in your home…check out these 10 benefits of owning a pet.
Pets Help You Exercise
If you own a dog especially, one of the benefits is exercise. Dogs love going for a walk. My big girl, Payton, a Lab/Rottweiler/Chow mix, brought her leash to me twice a day, which was her way of asking to go for a walk. If I ignored her for too long, she’d fetch my shoes, in case I misunderstood her request. Some of my favorite memories with Payton, who passed away from old age years ago, included long walks through my neighborhood.
Walking, jogging and biking with a dog in tow…or perhaps we are the ones in tow…are great ways to stay in shape and get the heart pumping.
Pets Provide Companionship
One of the primary reasons for bringing home a pet is companionship. People who live alone and older adults especially benefit from a loving relationship with a pet. Connecting with a pet improves emotional health, contributes to a more active lifestyle and eases loneliness. Plus, pets are supreme examples of showing unconditional love. We can learn much by journeying through life with them.
Pets Help You Socialize
Pets owners can socialize while their dogs play at the park. Or host an adoption event and watch people connect over the animals there. I end up in conversations at the grocery store with the cashier as she rings up another big box of cat food. Mention in any group that you have a pet or post a photo of one on social media and I guarantee you’ll make new friends.
People with common interests tend to connect more easily. Pets help to create that connection that can turn into a bond of friendship.
Pet Ownership Offers Health Benefits
Studies show that caring for and loving a pet can improve health. Benefits include lowering stress and blood pressure and decreasing cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Pet companionship can help keep the brain young. Plus walking the dog improves cardio health as well. Some studies even suggest that people who enjoy the love of pets live longer.
A connection may exist between a strengthened immune system and pets in the home. Babies who grow up with pets experience fewer infections than those in pet-free environments.
Properly caring for pets is crucial here. Neglected animals not only suffer but can contribute to poor health in their human companions. Healthy pets equal healthy humans.
Pets Help to Teach Children Responsibilities
Allowing children to help care for pets is so beneficial. The child learns how to feed, water, walk, train and comfort a pet, while receiving adoration and companionship in return. Three of my grandkids, who have a new puppy in the house, devised a chart to track who is responsible for what and when with their young black lab mix, Charles.
They’ve learned to do laundry so they can wash Charles’ bedding and how to give him a bath. Charles is growing quickly so that task requires two of them to accomplish, creating teamwork.
And caring for a pet, whether a dog, cat, hamster or snake, helps children develop empathy and compassion. These are important traits to carry into adulthood.
Pets Can Provide Safety
Some breeds of dogs are excellent protectors of their humans. My dog Payton made me feel safe, even when we walked at night. People saw her and crossed the street to walk on the other side, due to her size. In reality, she was a sweetheart, but I didn’t mind that people showed her…and me…respect.
Even small dogs and animals other than dogs are protective of their human family members. At my daughter’s house recently, caring for her four fur babies while she was out of town, I heard her cat Lemon growling. Looking around I found her at the open back door, watching a man in a neighboring yard. Lemon growled until the man went back into the house. I’m sure she thought she successfully warned that intruder away!
Pets Can Sense Danger or Detect Illness
Animals have a strong intuitive nature. They can sense impending danger, whether from storms, earthquakes or negative energy. After the EF5 tornado devastated Joplin in 2011, I heard so many stories of animals that took shelter or became anxious before storm sirens ever sounded.
And some pets have saved the lives of their humans by detecting cancer or disease. They sniffed, pawed or licked at a spot, indicating the presence of a tumor beneath the skin.
Pets Offer Comfort
Children with autism and similar learning disorders can experience isolation and disconnection from people. With pets, however, they feel more at ease. Animals offer love and acceptance, don’t compare and live in the moment. A child or an adult who finds the world a confusing place can receive great comfort from hugging on a dog or cat.
Comfort animals are a big thing right now. Many people feel that they handle difficult life situations better with a canine or feline companion at their side. Animals sense when a person is sad or upset or afraid. They instinctively know when to play and when to quietly cuddle and comfort.
Pets Make Us Laugh
We know that laughter is good for the body and the soul. And the antics of our pets generate plenty of laughter. A good laugh reduces stress and releases feel good hormones into the body. Is it surprising then that people love watching funny pet videos on YouTube? Or what about those adorable photos that pet owners post, of their naughty dogs and cats? A handwritten note usually accompanies the photo, stating what the dog or cat did. I love those.
My cats keep me laughing. They are clever and seem to put some thought into how they interact with me and Greg.
Pets Bring Us Joy
Most pet owners consider their fur babies family members. And well they should. We laugh over their games, look forward to seeing them after a time apart, worry about them when they are sick, grieve for them when they die. It’s all part of life with a loved one, any loved one, pets included.
Pets require attention. They create messes. Surprises may occur. My cat Shy Boy brought me live mice several times recently as gifts…to my bed in the middle of the night! How thoughtful of him.
However, what incredible joy these pets bring. They ask for little in return…food, water, shelter and love.
I complain about my cats sometimes. It seems like one is always on my lap or asking to go out the front door when there is a cat door in the utility room. However I love them. They are precious to me and fill my heart with joy.
Be a Responsible Pet Owner
I must add these cautionary words. Please be a responsible pet owner. Pets require basic care, love and attention. Do not bring home a pet that you cannot take care of or have no time for. And please have your pets spayed and neutered as part of their health care.
Shelters are full of animals waiting for loving homes. Consider adopting or fostering a dog or cat from a shelter rather than purchasing from a pet store.
My sisters and my niece and her husband are all involved in dog rescue and fostering. My mother adopted two rescue dogs. All three of my children rescued pets, adopted from shelters, or took in animals needing a home.
Our three cats came to us. Their momma brought them to the front door. Born in the wild a couple of years after the tornado, these little babies were feral at first. It took months of feeding them and talking soothingly to them before we could pet them. Now, they love to be in our laps or follow us around the house and yard. Angel invents games and plays them with Greg.
Pets are indeed a joy. They enrich our lives and offer amazing benefits.
Looking to adopt a pet or foster one?
Check out these finds for pets from Amazon:
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