Furry animals like cats and dogs are often seen as cute balls of energy. Most people light up at the sight of any animal that fits the criteria of small and adorable. We all love our pets—we even treat them as part of the family, spending thousands of dollars to keep them happy and healthy. This may seem extravagant to a non-pet owner, as the money spent on these animals could be better used elsewhere, but according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health, this money is well spent, as having a pet can help lower blood pressure, lower heart rate, and even lower cholesterol levels.
Those living with animals know that they are not simply another body living in your house, they are a source of joy and happiness that no human could ever compare to. Being with a pet reduces a person’s response to stress and even helps you recover faster from it. Caring for an animal can help you and others in your home learn empathy—the ability to understand and share the feelings of another, helping to deepen emotional connections not only with the animal but also with other people around you. Studies have shown that the more people benefit from their pets, the closer they tend to be to other people.
The type of pet may also provide unique advantages, as dog owners are more likely to be physically active, whether it’s just taking a walk or going to a local park. This act not only strengthens your bond with the animal, but forces you to get exercise yourself, keeping you healthy. These benefits extend to the older population as well, as having a dog can keep them active and socially connected, traits shown to improve lifespan and fend off physical and mental decline. Dogs can even be specialized, trained to provide a particular service such as recognizing the warning signs of a seizure—not a bad skill to have in a best friend.
It is important to understand that having a pet, be it a cat or dog, can be a big responsibility as you have to feed and clean up after it daily. If you’re thinking of getting a pet, consider who is going to take care of it and if you have enough space in your home to accommodate an animal. Having a backyard would be ideal, but not all people have this luxury. There are also other pets, such as birds or even fish, that have proven to provide their owners with stress relief and companionship and don’t require excessive amounts of care.
Related: Pets Warm Your Heart…and Also Protect It from Heart Disease