Health and Mood-Boosting Benefits of Pets

Pets can provide a number of health benefits. Here are some ways that caring for a cat, dog or other pet can reduce stress and depression, as well as improve heart health.

Pets have many benefits

Pet owners know the immediate benefits of having companion animals in their lives. Many of us are unaware of the benefits to our physical and mental health that come with snuggling up with a furry companion. Only recently have studies begun to explore the benefits of a human-animal relationship.

Pets are now able to understand human behavior and emotions. Dogs can understand words, but are better at understanding body language and gestures. Like any loyal human friend, your dog will try to read your emotions and understand what you are feeling.

Dogs and cats in particular can help reduce anxiety and depression and loneliness. They also encourage playfulness and exercise, which is good for your heart health. Children who grow up with an animal are more confident and active. Pets can also be a valuable companion for older adults. A pet can bring you real joy and unconditional affection.

Your health can be improved by any pet

It’s true, people who have pets tend to enjoy better health than those without. However, it doesn’t mean that the pet has to be a cat or dog. If you are allergic to animals, or if your space is limited but you still want to cuddle with a furry companion, a rabbit may be the perfect choice. Birds are great for promoting social interaction, and can help you keep your mind sharp as an older adult. Reptiles like snakes, lizards and frogs make exotic pets. Even watching fish in an aquatic environment can reduce muscle tension and your pulse rate.

Pets can enhance your lifestyle

Adopting a healthy lifestyle can help ease symptoms such as depression and anxiety. It also helps with bipolar disorder and PTSD. Care for your pet can encourage you to make healthier lifestyle choices by:

Increased exercise Walking, hiking, and running with your dog are all fun ways to get daily healthy exercise in. Dog owners are more likely to exercise daily, and this is good for their pets as well. Exercise will improve your relationship with your dog, eliminate most behavioral problems, and keep them fit and healthy.

Companionship. Companionship is a great way to prevent illness, and can even extend your life. Isolation and loneliness can cause depression symptoms. Care for an animal will make you feel wanted and needed, and can take your mind off of your problems, particularly if you are living alone. Many dog owners communicate with their pets. Some even use their pets to help them work out their problems. Coming home to a purring cat or wagging dog is the best way to beat loneliness.

They can help you make new friends . On walks, hikes or dog parks, many dog owners stop to talk with each other. Pet owners can also meet new friends in pet shops, clubs and training classes.

Reduce anxiety. A companion animal can provide comfort, ease anxiety and boost self-confidence in people who are anxious to go out into the world. Pets tend to be present-oriented and don’t dwell on the past or the future. They can help you appreciate the present moment.

Add structure and routine into your day. Dogs, in particular, need a regular exercise and feeding schedule. A consistent routine can help keep an animal calm and balanced. It also works for you. You can be depressed, anxious or stressed, but one look from your dog will make you get up and feed, exercise and care for your pet.

Pets can be a great companion for seniors

Owning a pet is not only a great way to enjoy companionship but it can also play a vital role in healthy ageing, by:

Find joy and meaning in your life. You’ll begin to lose the things that once occupied your time, and gave you a purpose. Your career may end or your children might move away. Care for a pet is a rewarding experience that can boost your self-esteem, confidence, and morale. Adopting a pet from an animal shelter, and especially an older one, can give you a sense of satisfaction, as it is a way to save a life that would otherwise be euthanized.

Keep in touch. Maintaining your social network can be difficult as you age. Death, illness, retirement and moving can all take family and friends away. And making new friends can get harder. Dogs are great for older adults who want to meet new people and start conversations.

Take care of yourself to boost your vitality. By taking good health care, you can avoid many of the physical challenges that come with ageing. Playfulness and laughter are encouraged by dogs, cats and other pets. This can boost your immunity and increase your energy.

What pets can do for adults with Alzheimer’s or dementia?

As part of their disease, patients with Alzheimer’s can exhibit a wide range of behavioral issues, most of which are related to a lack of ability to cope with stress.

    • Researchers at the University of California at Davis found that Alzheimer’s sufferers experience less anxiety and stress when there is a cat or dog in the house.
    • Pets are a great way to communicate in a nonverbal, positive manner. A well-trained and docile pet can provide a source of positive, nonverbal communication.
    • Many times, a patient’s problematic behavior is a response to the stress of the primary caregiver. Pets can reduce caregivers’ stress. It may be better to choose cats or caged pets than dogs. Dogs require more attention and can make it more difficult for caregivers who are already caring for an Alzheimer’s sufferer.

Pet ownership is a big commitment

It’s important to keep in mind that, despite all of the benefits of having a pet, a pet will not cure mental health problems. Ownership of a pet can be beneficial and comforting but only if you love and value domestic animals, and have enough time and money to care for a healthy and happy pet. Pet ownership will not improve your health or life if you are not “animal-loving”.

It’s important that you understand all the responsibilities of caring for your pet, even if it is because you love animals. Dogs can live up to 15 years, but for cats it could be 10 or more. You will also have to deal with the pain and grief of losing your beloved pet.

Some of the other disadvantages of owning a dog include:

Pets are expensive. Pets can cost a lot of money. Unemployed people or seniors on fixed incomes may find it difficult to afford pet ownership.

Animals need time and attention. Dog owners will tell you that it’s not therapeutic to come home and find a dog locked in the house all day. Dogs require daily exercise in order to remain calm and balanced; other pets need at least daily attention and care.

Owning pets can reduce your social activities. Dogs can only be left unattended for a short time. You can take your dog with you on errands or to a coffee shop.

Dogs and cats can be destructive. Every pet will have an accident from time to time. Some dogs may chew shoes, while some cats are prone to shredding furniture. Training can help eliminate negative, destructive behaviors, but they are still common among animals that have been left unattended for long periods without stimulation or exercise.

Pets require responsibility. If their owners do not handle them responsibly, most dogs can cause injury to people, no matter what size or breed they are. Even cats can bite or scratch. Even cats can bite or scratch.

Some people are at risk of health problems when they own pets. Allergies are the main health risk associated with pet ownership. While some diseases can be passed from dogs and cats to their owners, allergies are more common. Consider whether you or someone in your family can tolerate the symptoms of a pet’s allergy before you commit to pet ownership. Consider that certain friends and relatives who suffer from allergies may not be able visit you if you own a pet.

Find the perfect pet

Congratulations if you have decided to own a pet. You’re about open yourself up to a rewarding and unique relationship. Pet owners tend to feel happier, more independent and more secure. However, you should choose the right pet for your lifestyle and needs.

Discuss with other family members the traits you are looking for in a pet, and those you would like to avoid.

Considerations of lifestyle that can influence your decision to purchase a pet

Little outdoor activity. Consider pets who would enjoy staying with you at home. You might enjoy cuddling or playing with a cat, or taking a leisurely walk with an older dog.

High level of activity. A dog with high energy levels is perfect for someone who enjoys daily activities, such as walking or running. Canine companions love to be active outdoors, and will keep you moving.

Children and elderly. Families that have small children or the elderly in their home should take into consideration the size and energy of a pet. Puppies are delicate, yet very active creatures. They must be handled carefully. A large or rambunctious dog could knock over or injure a child or an adult who is not steady on their feet.

Other pets in the household. You should consider the happiness of your pets and their ability to adapt. While your dog or cat might be happy to have a playmate, the pet who has been used to having you all to themselves may not want to share.

Home environment. A free-roaming cat or dog may not be a good choice if you want a tidy, clean home free of pet hair, mud footprints, and accidents. If you want a pet that is confined, like fish, birds or hamsters in their own quarters, then this may be the best choice.

Landscaping issues. Your landscaping may suffer if you have certain pets. Dogs will dig holes and urine on your lawn. Some say that unaltered females are the worst offenders.

Time commitment. Last, but not least, remember that your commitment will last for the life of your pet. A dog, cat, or bird may live up to 30 years. Consider adopting a senior dog or cat at a shelter or from a rescue group. This will provide the animal with a loving environment for its later years.

When choosing a pet, you should be honest about your lifestyle and what kind of pet that you would like to have. Start small if you are unsure about taking care of a large animal. Get a fish, or a smaller animal in a cage. Then, you can decide if it’s right for you.

Shelter and Rescue Animals

Adopting a dog or cat from a shelter, rescue group or other organization is advisable. Most pets wind up in shelters through no fault on their part. The owner of the pet might have passed away or moved into a place where pets are not allowed. Or, they may have been abandoned by irresponsible people who bought a pet on a whim but later realized that they couldn’t or wouldn’t care for it properly. When a shelter animal or rescue animal displays aggressive behavior, they are usually euthanized instead of being offered for adoption.

Rescue groups find homes for dogs, cats and other animals that are unwanted or abandoned. Many of these pets come from shelters, where they were otherwise euthanized. Volunteers care for the animals until a permanent home can be found. Rescuers often know the personality of a pet and can advise on whether it would be a good fit for you.

Adopting a pet from a rescue or shelter organization will not only give a loving home to an animal that deserves it, but also save its life.

What to choose between a cat or a dog

The most common pets in the home are dogs and cats. You may see a cat being walked on a leash, or a dog using a litterbox, but the natural behavior and needs of cats and dogs are usually different.

Indoors or outdoors

Cats. Housecats can enjoy the outdoors, but they may wander.

Canines: All dogs need to be walked and exercised daily. They will need to walk every day, even if they have a large fenced yard where they can go potty and run.

Training

Cats Basic training for cats includes litter box use and not clawing on furniture. Cats are resistant to training.

Cats: Cats require much less training than dogs. The majority of dogs love to train because it gives them a purpose. They have a natural desire to please people.

Personality

Cats A cat will satisfy your need for serenity, independence and playfulness.

Dogs A dog will greet you with enthusiasm every time you enter your home.

Sociality

Cats Cats often prefer to be left alone.

Canines: dogs tend to thrive when they are in contact with people and other canines.

Alternatives to pet ownership

Even if you do not have the money, time or the ability to keep a full-time pet, you can still reap the benefits of animal contact. Even short periods of time spent with a cat or dog can be beneficial to both the animal and you.

You can, for instance, ask to walk the dog of a neighbor or become a volunteer in an animal shelter. Volunteers are welcome at most animal shelters and rescue groups to care for abandoned pets or help with adoption events. Not only will you be helping yourself but you’ll also be helping the animals to become more adoptable by socializing and exercising them.

Some animal shelters, rescue groups and pet rental programs offer pet “rental”. Adoptable dogs and cats can be taken for walks or played with. You can foster an animal until you find a permanent home for it or decide whether the animal is for you.

Different organizations provide specially trained Therapy Dogs to visit hospitals for children, assisted living centers, nursing homes and hospice programs. They also offer Therapy Cats that can be brought into schools, shelters and schools. People are encouraged to pet the animals and stroke them during these visits. This can help improve moods and reduce anxiety.