Pets Encourage Physical Activity
It’s a given that having a pet can take you out of a sedentary lifestyle and encourage you to get out of the house. Dogs need to go outside for walks. Cats need exercise and playtime.
Friends can provide support when starting up an exercise routine, but nothing compares to the encouragement of a pet. “If you ever try to weasel out of exercising with your dog, there is going to be heck to pay,” said Becker.
Pets Encourage Social Interaction
Pets are social magnets. According to Becker, pets are the “cure for the common cold shoulder.”
Imagine taking a walk on crowded city streets. No one talks to you or even seems to notice your presence. Now imagine taking an adorable puppy down those same streets. You’ll get more people making comments, asking you questions, or stopping to talk to you than you ever would if you were walking alone.
Pets Reduce Stress
According to Becker, just by touching our pets we feel a surge of prolactin and oxytocin, hormones that can help us feel better. These same hormones can lower blood pressure and reduce stress. Having a pet can elevate serotonin and dopamine — hormones that lift depression — as well.
Our animals often know when we need them, too. Pets tend to draw near when you’re feeling blue to provide emotional support. And pets get the same benefits from petting. Becker calls this the “love loop.”
Pets Improve Health
Additionally, Becker notes that if you have a dog, you’re five times more likely to be alive a year after a heart attack. If you have a cat, you’re 40 percent less likely to suffer from a heart attack or stroke in the first place. Pets lower cholesterol, they mitigate migraines, and they act as health monitors for Parkinson’s disease and diabetic seizures. Research has even begun on some dogs who have the amazing ability to detect cancer.
Becker also notes that children who have a pet growing up are less likely to develop allergies, asthma, and eczema.
Simply put, our companion dogs and cats help us live healthier, happier lives. They provide unconditional love and ask for relatively little in return.
How amazing is that?