Not only do our furry friends bring us a sense of joy, research suggests that owning a pet also brings a powerful boost to our mental and physical health, relieving loneliness, reducing stress levels, and even increasing our life span.
According to a poll, 95% of people view their pet as a member of the family. Pets offer incomparable companionship, reduce feelings of loneliness, help calm nerves, increase mindfulness and lower blood pressure and heart rate. “Like all fun things, playing with pets leads to an elevation of neurotransmitters, including serotonin and dopamine, which support feelings of pleasure and calm,” says psychologist and psychotherapist Natasha Tiwari.
They help reduce stress
Stroking a pet releases the bonding hormone oxytocin, which helps you relax. Anxious adults who were given an animal to hold showed a reduction in stress levels, and interestingly it didn’t matter whether the animal was cuddly – the same response was seen with a tortoise as with a rabbit. A Survey by the charity Cats Protection showed that more than nine out of 10 cat owners believed that owning a cat helped their mental health, with 72% agreeing that cat-stroking had a positive effect on mood. Even watching fish in an aquarium can boost wellbeing and promote mindfulness by giving people something to focus on and clear the mind.
They are good for our physical health
There are correlations between pet ownership with lower rates of blood pressure and heart disease; and research now suggests that owning a dog helps us live longer. People who own a dog are 65% less likely to die following a heart attack. Why? The lower risk of death associated with dog ownership could be due to an increase in physical activity due to regular dog walks.
They help us make connections
Pets get us out of the house – even if that trip is to the vet, or shopping for pet food – and allow us to make connections with other like-minded people. Dog-owners will know the easy camaraderie that develops with other people out walking, and studies show that dog-owners value the opportunity their pet brings to meet others. Another benefit? They offer tactile therapy, getting us off our digital devices, out into the real world. With owning 3 dogs we often comment how we chat to other dog walkers that we wouldn’t normally speak to and with whom our paths wouldn’t normally cross.
They stop us from feeling lonely
Pets provide companionship for anyone living alone, which is crucial for mental health, this is true for my own mother, her cat Daisy proves a valuable source of comfort to her living alone. Just by looking into your pet’s eyes can give you a hit of oxytocin and prolactin, hormones that give you a happiness boost, which is a simple way to get the pet effect.