Whether it’s studies on heart disease, stroke, immunity, allergies, depression, or anxiety, there is an common finding showing up in more and more medical research these days: It helps to have a pet. You don’t have to look hard to find a new report on the positive impacts of pets on our physical and mental health. Indeed, caring for a pet has been linked to everything from physical health to happiness to longevity. The rationale, though, is simpler than you may think. Properly caring for a pet provides us with three key components of a long and healthy life: exercise, purpose, and companionship.
We all know it: Exercise every day keeps the doctor away. Whether it’s taking Fido for a hike or batting cat nip toys back and forth on the floor with Fluffy, pets get us off the couch and moving, without having to pack a bag for the gym or subscribe to the newest costly at-home fitness program. Our commitment to caring for our pet’s physical needs doubles as caring for our own.
Caring for a pet also provides a sense of purpose and a structure to our daily routine. The thought of heading to work may not make you want to get out of bed in the morning, but knowing a furry companion is waiting for you to start her day with – to feed, walk, play with and snuggle before you launch into other responsibilities – may be just what it takes to motivate you to start your day. Caring for a pet has been proven to result in adults – including the elderly – caring better for themselves on a daily basis.
And, pets can be the perfect cure for loneliness – in more ways than one. Pets provide us with their unmatched unconditional love and loyalty; they become our someone to wake up with, come home to, and talk to every day. However, owning a pet can also be the best way to boost our social interaction with people. Pets are great conversation starters and easy ice breakers: taking your pet to the park or to obedience classes can be a great way to meet people and make new friends … or more!
So, whether you’re looking to get fit, prevent health problems in the future, or simply find a date for Saturday, you may not need to look any further than the loyal furball curled up at your feet. Or, if you don’t have a pet at home, maybe it’s time to skip the pharmacy and head to your local humane society – your perfect match (and cure) may be waiting for you.
For details on the specific health benefits of pets, check out these reports:
Coordinator: Humane Education