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Reasons Why Owning a Pet is Good For Your Health!

There’s no doubt about it: our pets make us feel good. When you’re having a rough day, a wagging tail or a friendly headbutt can turn your frown upside down in an instant. What you may not realize, however, is that the benefits of pet ownership go well beyond the occasional pick-me-up. Owning a pet can have serious benefits for your physical and mental health.

According to the National Pet Owners Survey, sixty-seven percent of American households (about 85 million families) own a pet. With so many pet owners out there, it’s no wonder that the bond between people and pets has been the subject of significant scientific research. The fact of the matter is that owning a pet is good for you – keep reading to learn how!

The Special Bond Between People and Pets

Modern pet owners tend to think of their pets as members of the family, not just companion animals. This concept would have been laughable a century ago when animals served an almost strictly utilitarian purpose. In more recent years, however, the study of the human-animal bond has become incredibly popular. In fact, a small group of researchers coined a term for it in the 1990s: anthrozoology.

The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) has conducted a wide array of research studies involving the human-animal bond. In doing so, they’ve discovered that positive human-animal interactions appear to be related to changes in both psychological and physiological variables in humans and in animals. These interactions have been shown to reduce anxiety and depression, boost emotional and general well-being, and even help people manage long-term health conditions.

8 Ways Pets Are Good for Your Mental Health

Nothing is more relaxing than snuggling up with a furry friend. The bond we have with our pets is special, akin to the relationship we have with our closest friends. Like any good friend, our pets are attuned to our emotions and respond to our tone of voice and body language to gauge their own behavior. This mutually understanding relationship has the potential to provide serious mental health benefits ranging from stress and anxiety relief to improved discipline and socialization.

Here are 8 ways pets are good for your mental health:

  1. Having a pet helps manage depression symptoms. Owning a pet provides a reminder that you’re not alone. Sometimes companionship is all you really need during a bout of depression, though being responsible for a pet can also help you keep to a regular schedule. If you need additional help managing your depression, try online therapy.
  2. Interacting with a pet increases oxytocin levels in the brain. Oxytocin is a neuropeptide shown to slow heart rate and breathing, lower blood pressure, and inhibit stress hormones in addition to promoting a sense of calm and comfort.
  3. Having a pet can speed recovery and reduce pain. Studies involving patients recovering from joint replacement surgery reveal that pet therapy require fewer pain medications.
  4. Pet ownership may improve long-term disease management. In a study involving teenagers diagnosed with diabetes, researchers found that putting the patients in charge of caring for a fish improved adherence to medical regimens such as regular blood sugar testing.
  5. Having a pet provides a sense of purpose. Loneliness is a serious threat to our mental health, particularly among the sick and elderly. Pets provide companionship that can offset some of that loneliness.
  6. Pets may improve mood and health outcomes. Dog ownership has helped many veterans transition back into civilian life. Pets have also been shown to improve mood and health outcomes in veterans dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  7. Being a pet owner provides opportunity for socialization. Not only do you have your pet for companionship, but owning a pet creates opportunities for socialization with other pet owners. By walking your dog, you get outside and meet people – there are even dating sites and social media platforms created specifically for pet owners.
  8. Interaction with pets is beneficial for children with developmental challenges. Children with ADHD may experience improved focus when they have a predictable routine and owning a pet helps create that routine. The sensory experience of petting a dog can be beneficial for children with autism as well.

Does Petting a Cat Release Oxytocin?

Cats, often hailed for their independent nature, have a mysterious allure that has enchanted humans for generations. But there’s more to our feline friends than meets the eye. Scientific studies suggest that interacting with cats, particularly petting them, can indeed stimulate the release of oxytocin in humans. Oxytocin, commonly referred to as the “love hormone” or “bonding hormone,” plays a pivotal role in strengthening social bonds and enhancing feelings of affection and trust. As you stroke a cat’s soft fur and hear its contented purring, you’re not only soothing the cat but also benefiting from a surge of oxytocin, which fosters a deepened sense of connection and well-being.

Best Small Pets for Depression

When it comes to alleviating depression, size doesn’t necessarily matter. Small pets can bring about immense joy and comfort to their owners. Guinea pigs, for example, are known for their gentle and affectionate nature. Their soft cooing sounds can be therapeutic, and their need for regular handling promotes interaction. Similarly, hamsters and gerbils can serve as engaging companions with their curious behaviors and playful antics. Watching them go about their daily activities, like running on a wheel or burrowing, can be a delightful distraction from depressive thoughts. Furthermore, the care these small animals require provides a sense of purpose and routine, crucial for those dealing with depression.

Companion Pets for Dementia

Pets have a profound impact on the lives of individuals with dementia. Their constant presence can offer comfort and alleviate feelings of isolation, a common emotion experienced by dementia patients. Dogs, with their predictable behavior and responsive nature, can offer reassurance to those struggling with memory loss. Their routine needs, such as feeding or walks, can also help reinforce a daily structure for the patient. On the other hand, cats, with their soothing purring and soft fur, can provide tactile stimulation and a calming influence. Importantly, pets can trigger memories and spark conversations, enabling dementia patients to reconnect with past experiences and maintain a sense of identity.

While being a pet owner comes with some pretty great mental health benefits, it’s important to remember that, like any relationship, your people-pet bond is a two-way street. Your pet showers you with unbridled affection and unconditional love, so he deserves the same in return. It’s your responsibility to provide your pet with a safe, happy, and healthy life.

Does Owning a Pet Have Physical Health Benefits?

We all understand the value of having a trusted friend and companion in our lives, but does owning a pet provide physical health benefits on top of boosting your mental health? Some research suggests that it does. Positive human-animal interactions appear to be linked to beneficial changes in things like blood pressure and heart rate as well as the production of stress hormones and neurotransmitters.

It isn’t just owning a pet that provides these health benefits, however – it’s the ways being a pet owner changes your life. Owning a pet increases your opportunities for socialization and exercise. Regular contact with other people is good for your mental health while physical exercise helps decrease blood pressure and control cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Having a pet during childhood can improve immunity and reduce allergies. Pet ownership may even reduce your risk for heart attack and stroke.

Owning a pet comes with some serious benefits, but it’s still a big responsibility. Before you add a new member to your family, make sure you have the time, energy, and resources to provide a new pet with the healthy life they deserve. If you treat your pet well, you’ll enjoy a lifetime of companionship, not to mention all the physical and mental health benefits we’ve already mentioned.

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