Anyone who has ever dozed off on a Sunday afternoon with a warm kitten purring on their chest or thrown a ball for a happy, clumsy dog who faithfully returns it again and again knows the joy our pets can bring us on a daily basis. For millions of people, pets introduce a circle of love: we love them, they love us, and we are both better off. And there’s more – not only are pets adorable, but they’re actually pretty good for our physical and mental health, too. If you don’t have a pet and have considered adopting one, here are four good reasons to go ahead and take the plunge.
1. Pets make it easier to stay fit
If your favorite gym is closed right now because of the pandemic (or if you’d just rather not take the risk), a dog offers a fantastic solution to working off those extra quarantine calories. Your pup needs exercise, too, so take her along on a walk, jog, hike, or swim a few times a week. If you have a trail near your home, your feet and your dog’s alike will appreciate the softer surface. Even a game of fetch in the backyard is better than couch potato-ing for yet another hour. As an added bonus, dogs who get outdoors for a daily walk tend to be healthier, happier, calmer, and better-behaved in general.
2. Pets are great for your mental health
Not only are pets known to offer unconditional love (even those “special” cats who offer it only on their terms), but they also help give their owners a sense of purpose. Your pets can help combat feelings of loneliness and sadness by providing companionship, giving your overall mood a boost. This benefit is particularly apparent among groups of people who are prone to depression, such as the sick or elderly. There’s a reason that so many hospitals and nursing homes employ pet-facilitated therapy for their patients!
3. Pets can help relieve pain
Amazingly, your pet can actually provide pain relief for you. A growing body of evidence suggests that pets are helpful for people with chronic pain, such as those with spine conditions, traumatic injuries, rheumatoid arthritis, or physically demanding jobs. Our pets give us a reason to get out of bed in the morning and also help keep us moving – and staying active is key to managing chronic pain. Keep in mind that inactivity and pain can become a vicious cycle, so as long as your doctor gives you the go-ahead, staying active with your pet is a great way to manage pain and preserve mobility.
4. Pets help improve heart health
There’s even more good news for people who love their furry friends. It appears that pet ownership is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. Now, correlation does not prove causation – but it does indicate that having a pet may be a smart move for people who want to lower their overall risk as much as possible. There are several possible reasons for the relationship between owning a pet and having a healthier heart. For instance, dog owners tend to get more exercise than people who don’t have dogs, relaxing with a pet is very calming, and playing with/petting/talking to your best friend is a great stress management technique.
Whatever your reason for wanting a pet, it’s clear that you’ll likely be better off with one than without one. If you’re in a position to take care of a dog or cat properly and you could use a little more companionship in your life, now’s as good a time as any to add pet adoption to your to-do list.
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