Around 38% of all households in the United States have a dog, and for good reason: besides being fun, the benefits of getting a pet are numerous and scientifically-supported.
With practically no effort at all, dogs, cats, and other animals can bring enormous joy into their owners’ lives. You’re sure to be familiar with at least some of the benefits of getting a pet, especially if you’ve had one at a certain point in your life. You’ve likely had an experience where a beloved pet has made you laugh, comforted you when sick or upset, or in some other way simply been there for you, no matter what. It’s no wonder so many families and individuals keep pets as a permanent fixture of their lives.
Of course, not everyone understands this bond that can exist between humans and animals. You might be on the fence about buying or adopting a pet, unsure whether the benefits of getting a pet will outweigh the costs. If that sounds like you, then you’ve come to the right place. Before you think about what pet to buy or adopt, or what fence types would work in your backyard, let’s discuss the top benefits of getting a pet.
Pets Help Keep You in Shape
Although dog kennels have their place, every pet needs exercise. No matter what breed it is, any dog will need consistent, daily walks in order to stay happy and healthy. And for that matter, so does every human! However, unlike our restless canine friends, we tend to get a bit lazy and give up on exercise. If you struggle to get enough exercise, a dog could be the perfect cure. Whether it’s a lovable golden retriever or an ever-excitable border collie — or even if it’s a tiny chihuahua — your pet will be dragging you out the front door every chance it gets. A dog can sometimes be the best personal trainer you could ever ask for!
Pets Keep You Company
While a cat or a hamster might not do much to help you stay in shape, here’s one of the benefits of getting a pet where they all shine. Having a pet will make sure that, no matter what’s going on in your social life, you never have to be lonely. It’s literally like having an emotional support animal. If you live by yourself, or if your partner works a different shift from yours, you know that being alone in the house all the time can get lonesome. If you have a cat or dog, it will always be waiting for you to come home from your long days at work. Your pet will be happy to lend an ear in case you need to vent about the rough day you had. And as if having the company wasn’t already enough, they’ll probably enjoy snuggling up with you on the sofa!
Pets Help Lower Your Stress Levels
When you look at certain pets, it may be hard to understand the allure. A gecko can’t exactly be taken on walks, and a goldfish may not seem like the warmest companion. But when it comes to relieving stress and tension, just about any well-cared-for animal can help out. Whether you’re stroking your cat’s fur or just watching exotic fish swim around in their tank, pets have a sort of magic about them that melts anxiety away. This is why they are often used to support grief counseling. Some have found that people with pets tend to enjoy lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. What that means is that your furry (or scaly) little friend could decrease your chances of suffering a heart attack in the future. Those are some benefits of getting a pet we can all get behind!
Pets Can Help You Make Friends — with Other Humans
We all want to be friends with our pets, and thankfully they usually want to be friends with us! But did you know that simply being a pet owner can instantly connect you to a community of kind, welcoming people? You’ll find that the pet owner community is incredibly friendly, and you can easily meet them around town in your local park while you’re walking your dog. Your yard may look lovely after a visit from your local lawn service, but don’t keep your pet within the confines of your lawn. Go out and enjoy the town with them!
Having a pet is a great way to strike up conversations and build instant bonds with non-pet owners, especially if your pet is a usual one. This is especially helpful if you aren’t very good at small talk. You never know, but your pet just might help you meet the love of your life.
Pets Can Improve Your Immune System
You rely on your local vet to keep your animal healthy, but have you heard that your pet may be helping keep you healthy?
Most pets spend a lot of time outdoors. As a result, they tend to bring many different kinds of dirt and germs into your home. Now at first glance that might sound like a bad thing, but hear us out: the additional germs can help improve your immunity to colds and other mild illnesses. Studies have demonstrated that babies who live with a dog can experience fewer infections, and are generally healthier overall, than those who don’t. Combined with the mandatory exercise dog ownership involves, that’s two health-related benefits of getting a pet!
Pets May Prevent Your Children from Developing Allergies
It may sound crazy, but it’s true: while there’s no guarantee that it’ll work, evidence suggests that dander in pets’ fur may help prevent children from developing certain allergies. That being said, if you or someone in your household is allergic to dogs or cats already, you shouldn’t get one. Sadly, you won’t suddenly become immune just by exposing yourself to them. But if you have young children and no sign of pet allergies in your family, getting a dog or cat or two could be just the thing to boost your kids’ health!
Some Pets Can Catch Cancer Early
Everyone knows that dogs have an amazing sense of smell, but did you know that some dogs are able to detect cancer? There have been multiple pet owners who claimed that their dog saved their lives when they noticed they were constantly sniffing, pawing at, or even licking tumors hiding beneath the skin. If your family has a history with cancer, this is all the more reason to get a dog.
Pets Can Teach Children Responsibility
Every parent has heard the plea, “can I have a puppy?” at least once in their child’s life. Perhaps you have a little girl or boy who’s obsessed with ponies, Guinea pigs, or even snakes. One way or another, it’s no secret that children love animals, and if they’re old enough, having a pet of their own can be a wonderful way to teach them critical life skills. Not only does owning a pet involve many practical hands-on skills, such as cleaning cages and grooming animals, but it’s also a great way to develop empathy and nurturing skills. As you can imagine, these types of abilities are incredibly valuable in every aspect of life. The practical skills acquired during pet ownership can be among the very best benefits of getting a pet.
Pets Can Help You Feel Safe
We already mentioned that owning a pet can help relieving stress and anxiety. But having a pet around the house can also help you feel safe, especially if you live in a questionable or uncomfortable neighborhood. Not everyone likes to be at home by themselves, which is why many people have outdoor lighting systems to keep burglars away. But having a cat or a dog around — especially a larger dog — can also do wonders to make them feel much safer. Burglars are far less likely to target a home that clearly has a dog living in it. Certain dogs are actually bred for guarding their owners, and can help protect you when you’re outside on a run, as well as when you’re in your home.
Pets Can Provide Companionship to Children with Learning Difficulties
Children who have autism and other similar learning disorders often have trouble communicating clearly with their fellow human beings. However, they’ve been found to have no trouble at all chatting away with friendly animals. After all, a pet is better at listening than talking, and they’re always quite accepting! The field of therapy dogs for children demonstrates one of the most exciting benefits of getting a pet.
Pets Can Help You Find Love
We mentioned briefly that having a pet could help you meet the love of your life. Well, it’s true — how often have you noticed strangers comment on other people’s pets, only to watch that conversation escalate into meaningful dialogue?
People looking for love typically want to find someone who is trustworthy, compassionate, and a good provider. Having a pet automatically signals those three things: you must have a strong sense of responsibility to care for a pet; you must be managing your money well enough to own an animal and take care of it; and when people see that you have a pet, they naturally assume you must be an empathetic person, especially if you’re noticeably kind to it.
While you shouldn’t buy a pet just to impress potential dates (your love for your pet should be genuine, after all), having an easy way to get attention and start conversations with people you like can be a major perk of pet ownership!
Pets Can Help Aging Loved Ones
Perhaps one of the most heartwarming benefits of getting a pet is their impact on elderly individuals. Studies have demonstrated that patients with Alzheimer’s disease experience fewer anxious outbursts if there’s an animal in the home. Interestingly, caregivers for these patients seem to feel less burdened when there’s a pet, especially if it’s a cat, which typically requires less care than a dog. And if your aging loved one is able to get around enough to care for a pet themselves, that’s even better — a dog can provide an elderly person companionship and an opportunity to exercise. Whether you’re just a few years old or nearing the end of life, pets offer countless life-enhancing benefits.
The Benefits of Getting a Pet Affect Mind and Soul
Owning a pet has many practical benefits. Physically, pets can provide opportunities for exercise and stress-relieving companionship. Intellectually, having a pet gives you the chance to learn valuable new skills, from dog training to compassion and empathy. But the benefits of getting a pet go far beyond what we can see and feel, and touch our very souls.
Pet ownership has been shown to help certain people cope with depression. In fact, pet owners with AIDS are much less likely to suffer from depression than patients without pets are. Experts say this benefit is particularly pronounced when a patient is very strongly attached to their pet.
As we’ve discussed already, pets are incredible for helping to relieve stress. In one study, in particular, stockbrokers diagnosed with high blood pressure showed lower blood pressure readings while in stressful situations — after adopting a cat or dog.
As you may have heard, stress can kill, and it’s often considered to be at the heart of many common diseases. When you’re in “stress mode,” harmful chemicals like cortisol and norepinephrine charge through your body, and these negatively impact your immune system. As a result, you’re more susceptible to contracting illnesses or infections. It also leads to plaque buildup in your arteries, which in turn often leads to heart disease.
This is a primary reason why owning a pet can be so important. Like any enjoyable activity, playing with your dog or cat can elevate levels of “happy chemicals,” such as serotonin and dopamine. These neurochemicals are famous for their pleasurable, calming properties. In a milder form, it’s the same effect produced by drugs and alcohol, only without the repercussions. Along with relieving stress and anxiety, this even boosts productivity.
As you can see, there are many benefits of getting a pet — and the ones we’ve described are just the tip of the iceberg. Like many good things, one benefit often leads to another, and combine in ways that are greater than the sum of their parts. Between playing fetch and teeth cleanings, owning a pet is more than a status symbol or a social responsibility. It’s a great way to reconnect with life, along with the joy and playful wonder you might have had when you were a child.