Attention pet owners and future pet owners! While having a pet may be a lot of work, it turns out that having a fur child can help you live longer. There are studies already out there that show how dog owners, specifically, tend to recover more quickly from heart attacks or stroke, amongst other benefits. However, there are plenty of reasons, both emotionally and relationally, why owning a pet can be beneficial (and not just dogs!)
With your pet, you most likely have a routine for making sure their basic needs are met. A daily routine can ensure that you wake up and are engaged in your day. Having a routine can help to minimize some levels of stress and provide a sense of stability and consistency. When we can find opportunities to decrease stress in our lives, this ultimately impacts our physical health as well as emotional and mental health. Also, if you have a pet that needs walks, you are likely getting some exercise regularly. It can be easier to remember to make sure we are eating and hydrating regularly and moving our body when we are making sure our pets are well cared for. It can be a helpful reminder that if we believe our pets are deserving of care, that we are also deserving of care.
Humans are social beings. We thrive when we have community and relationships for support, companionship, and love. Luckily, this companionship doesn’t necessarily have to be with another human in order to get the benefits of social connection. Many people consider their pets to be members of their family, and not just “pets”. There is consistent research that when we have close relationships, this can increase life satisfaction and longevity. Having a pet can also increase your opportunity to meet and engage with other people who have pets at parks or community spaces. More opportunities for connection decrease our chance of social isolation and ultimately improve our mood and health. Our meaningful relationships with our pets show why therapy pets are helpful for those who struggle with more severe mental illness or mental health concerns. Regardless of having a certified therapy animal, having a pet for companionship, to love, and receive unconditional love in return is incredibly beneficial to our mental health and physical health.
If you are considering getting a pet, know that it is not unusual to experience some anxiety or changes in mood while adjusting to having a new routine that involves caring for a pet. However, these growing pains can soon be outweighed by the physical and emotional benefits of having a consistent companion.