6 Benefits of having a pet

Can having a dog help you live longer? Does stroking a cat reduce stress levels? There are many wonderful reasons to get a pet and if you find the right pet at the right time, the benefits of owning a pet can be endless for you both.

There are lots of reasons to get a cat or a dog, besides the obvious cuteness factor. Petplan’s research found that 41% of owners refer to their pet as their best friend and 44% call their pet their ‘baby’. Pets truly do become part of our family but sometimes they can also make us happier — and healthier. Find out about these six, science-based benefits of pet ownership:

1. Owning a pet can be good for your health

Anyone for walkies? This might seem obvious, but a small UK study found that dog owners were 20% more active than those without a dog. The owners of dogs took, on average, 30 minutes more activity per day than those without a dog. The benefits of having a more active lifestyle include weight loss. It’s unknown whether cat ownership does the same thing, unless you count walking from room to room, trying to get them to notice you!

2. Living in a house with pets can reduce childhood allergies

Not only are pets a great companion for your children, but pet ownership could also help reduce allergies in kids. One study found that instances of childhood allergies were lower in pet-owning homes, with just 23% of children living in homes with pets having allergies, compared to 49% for those with no pets. The positive impact was seemingly increased by the number of pets they had, too. Nevertheless, if your child has allergies, you should consult your doctor before getting a pet.

3. Pet owners are often happier than non-pet owners

Is there anything more soothing than a lapful of warm, happy cat? Cuddles and quality time with your pet release the happiness hormones oxytocin and serotonin, especially if your cat is letting out a deep, resonant purr. Of course, cats can sometimes be a little aloof, so if it’s affection you’re after, you may be better off with a rabbit that loves to be held and cuddled, or a dog that’s content to be petted whenever you call. The benefits of petting a dog can include relaxing tense muscles, lowering your blood pressure, and slowing your breathing. 

4. Pet ownership can boost our self-esteem

According to a survey of British dog and cat owners over 55 years old, people with pets are twice as likely to consider themselves a success. While there are lots of other factors that can affect this – such as wealth and health – there are plenty of charities that believe in the psychological benefits of owning a pet. Pets can help improve our mental health in all kinds of ways, from boosting self-confidence to reducing anxiety, providing companionship and helping create a sense of routine.

5. Our pets can help us find love

For anyone who thinks that Lady and the Tramp is the height of romance, we have good news. Dogs could actually help you find love. Some 22% of dog owners have found love – or at least, been asked out on a date – while walking their pooch. Walking your pet helps you meet more people and find a common interest, plus talking about them is sure to show your warm, passionate side. So perhaps it’s no surprise that the Kennel Club has reported the romantic benefits of having a dog.

6. Pets can mean we live longer

Did someone call for the dog-tor? Terrible jokes aside, there is some evidence to suggest that pets reduce stress in humans. Research suggests that cat owners have a 30% lower risk of heart attacks. What about dogs? Dog owners are 24% less likely to die for any health-related reason than non-dog owners. Dogs can also be trained to detect cancer and epileptic episodes and therapy animals are increasingly used in hospitals to comfort patients. If you’d like to extend the benefits of your pet to others, consider becoming a volunteer and register your pet to become a therapy animal.

So, there you have it: six simple reasons why it’s a fabulous idea to have a much-loved pet in your life. Do remember that having a pet will only make you happy if you’re able and willing to look after it, however.

Have you noticed the physical and mental benefits of having a pet? Tell us how your special friend has improved your wellbeing using #PethoodStories.

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