Over 62 % (72.9 million homes) of U.S. households own a pet of some kind. Out of that 62 million, almost half of those families own dogs, with cats coming in second. I have always had pets growing up. Presently, I am the proud mother of a 9 1/2 year old English bulldog named Lulu. Although I have 2 sons, Lulu is the little girl I never had. At times, I really feel as if I had birthed her, just as I did my boys. There is nothing I wouldn’t do for her and from talking to many people over the years; I know many of you feel the same way. We know our pets keep us happy, but did you also know that they provide us with real health benefits?
Pet ownership can provide their owners with mental health benefits as well as physical benefits. For starters, pets give us unconditional love. As humans, this is something that we crave but can’t always attain. Pets are always there to greet us. They hate to see us go: and they are always there when we could use a little love. We share our deepest thoughts with them and they never threaten to tell. Pets can help to ward off depression and may even lessen anxiety. Petting your dog or cat helps to increase the “feel good” chemicals in your brain. For some, pets even provide a reason to get up some mornings.
Pets, especially dogs, make for great icebreakers. They get you out of your house to meet and greet your neighbors, whether you want to or not. You may not always remember your neighbors’ names, but chances are you’ll remember Lilly, Schooner and Chief. Pets can even help to get some people dates. Go to any dog park and your pet will help you to strike up conversation with just about anyone. How many times have you sat outside at a local eatery and strangers have come up to you to pet your dog or comment on how cute they are? They are real magnets!
Apart from the mental health benefits of pet ownership, there are the physical benefits as well. There is the obvious physical benefit of getting exercise by walking your dog outside. According to the CDC, pet ownership can decrease your blood pressure, cholesterol levels and triglycerides. Studies show that petting your cat or dog can help to reduce blood pressure. Studies have also shown that heart attack patients, who have pets, live longer than those patients who don’t own a pet.
Although the health benefits of pet ownership are undeniable, no one should go out and impulsively buy a pet without serious consideration. Although pets are cute and cuddly, they are also a huge responsibility. So for those of you that have pets, love them like there’s no tomorrow. For those of you that don’t have any, but would like to get one, think about what kind of pet will meet your family’s needs. Most of all, understand that pet ownership is a long-term commitment with enormous rewards.
*We would love to hear from you. We invite you to comment and tell us about your furry friend.