Pets Are Good For Your Health – Here are 4 Reasons Why

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Did you know that around 45% of the UK population owns a pet? I’ve always had a pet of some description; from guinea pigs and goldfish to house rabbits and dogs. I’m sure a lot of you would agree that life is just more enjoyable with a pet around. When I have had a pet in my life they have provided me with purpose, loyalty, company, endless entertainment and comfort. But can pets actually be good for your health? It turns out that yes, they can! Let’s find out how…

1. Pets get you out of the house and exercising…

Those of us who have dogs always have a reason to get off our behinds and leave the house for some good old fresh air and exercise. Even when the weather is not-so-desirable (and that happens a lot in the UK!!) we still have to make the effort for our pooches. Avoiding the gym because you can’t be bothered is not an option when you have a dog who desperately needs to stretch its legs. This has to be one of the most compelling health benefits of dog ownership.

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A pet dog will always get you out of the house. Photo by Humphrey Muleba from Pexels

Those of us who have dogs always have a reason to get off our behinds and leave the house for some good old fresh air and exercise. Even when the weather is not-so-desirable (and that happens a lot in the UK!!) we still have to make the effort for our pooches. Avoiding the gym because you can’t be bothered is not an option when you have a dog who desperately needs to stretch its legs. This has to be one of the most compelling health benefits of dog ownership.

According to The Telegraph the average dog owner actually gets more exercise each week than a gym-goer. That’s something to feel positive about when it’s pouring with rain outside and Fido still needs his walk. (the impending smell of Eau de Wet Dog is something to feel less positive about though!)

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Simply having a pet can encourage you to get off the sofa and be more active. Photo by Yuliya kota from Pexels

If you have a cat, you’re more likely to get up off the sofa and play with it. And I’m sure those who own horses will agree that their equine companions keep them very fit active; even mucking them out counts as good exercise, according to Horse & Hound.

2. Pets get you socialising…

As I’ve discovered with my dogs, they can be great for your social life; when you get a dog, all of a sudden you are welcomed into a new community of fellow “dog people”. People will come up to you in the street and ask if they can pet your pooch and you will regularly get chatting with fellow dog owners/walkers in the street, at the park or at the pet shop. I’ve found that people tend to approach you a lot more often when you have a dog.

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Dog walking in the park can offer great opportunities for meeting like-minded people. Photo by mentatdgt from Pexels

You can also meet other dog/pet owners at training classes and even online…I speak from experience when I say there is A LOT of social media focussing on pets and animals and many communities to become part of. There are even dog cafes, bunny yoga classes and dating sites for people with certain pets! It can be great for someone who is shy and who may otherwise struggle to talk to new people…a pet can shift the focus away from them and make it much easier for them to relax and chat about their common ground with another person.

3. Pets are physically healing and soothing…

One major health benefit of pets is their ability to relax and soothe us. According to the Mental Health Foundation, stroking a pet, be it a dog, cat, rabbit or any other furry friend can have a sensory healing effect on us. I personally find that stroking a pet helps take my mind off things that may be worrying me; it moves the focus away from myself and onto them instead.

Pets have many physical benefits to humans from lowering blood pressure and cholesterol to reducing anxiety and depression. In addition, “playing with a dog or cat can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine, which calm and relax.

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Stroking my pet bunnies (this is Bryn) always helps me relax.

Studies have also shown that people recovering from heart attacks recover at a faster rate when they have a pet. Having a pet in the house can also be beneficial for children. It has been suggested that children who are exposed to pets early on tend to develop stronger immune.

4. Pets are good for your emotional and mental wellbeing…

Another way in which pets are good for your health, is in their ability to combat loneliness; when you have a pet you always have someone to come home to. The companionship they provide can help ward off loneliness and depression and it has been suggested that this can add years to our lives.

Having a pet also means being responsible for someone else which can focus attention away from life’s troubles. It can add an element of structure to our daily routines which can be good for people who struggle with depression. In addition to this, just knowing that a pet relies on you can be comforting in itself.

 As well as keeping us company, pets are great at listening! Some owners even talk through their problems with their pet just to have someone listening who won’t judge or answer back! Our old family dog Honey used to sense when I was upset and would try to comfort me by resting her chin on my lap.

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Both cats and dogs produce the ‘love hormone’ oxytocin. Photo by Buenosia Carol from Pexels

There is strong evidence to show that both cats and dogs feel love for their owners. It has been found that dogs undergo the same chemical changes that humans do during emotional states and even produce oxytocin, the ‘love hormone’. Cats produce oxytocin as well, although in smaller quantities.

Pets are also great at uniting families or partners…you can always rely on them to do something amusing in the midst of an argument and diffuse an otherwise tense moment. As Maura Rhodes points out, “…even when family members are barely speaking, they at least share delight in watching the guinea pig in its cage.” I’ve found that it’s hard to stay annoyed when your puppy is bounding around like a mad thing chasing her tail!

It’s Official; Pets are Good for Your Health!

So there you have it…pets are great for your health. From simply keeping us company and entertaining us, to increasing our physical wellbeing and combating depression and stress, there are many reasons why a pet can be a very positive addition to your life. There’s no excuse now not to get another furry friend!