The Health Benefits of Having Pets

Growing up I went through many pets: turtle, goldfish, rabbits wild and domestic, hamsters, dogs, cats, chicken and birds. The care and affection involved with having a pet is a great learning experience as a child, but there are so many more benefits to having a pet. Those are health benefits, both physical and emotional.

Today my home includes a 3 year old Morkie that we’ve had since he was 14-weeks old. Since we’ve had him I can speak of so many ways he has impacted me and my family’s life. Below I list 5 particular health benefits of having a pet. I can imagine many of you can experience these health benefits as well by opening your home to a pet.

5 Health Benefits of Having Pets

  • 1. Keeps You Active: Most pets prefer a schedule. They may be walked a certain time of day. They may be fed a certain time of day. They may be played with several times a day. All these different activities can make you take a much-needed break from what you are doing or help get you out of bed if you haven’t already. Because you care for your pet, you know that if you don’t walk him, feed him, and/or play with him, he is all alone with hunger lingering and sadness filling the air with whimpers, howling, meows, and/or desperate stares. Pets help you maintain a routine schedule and keep you up on your feet throughout the day.
  • 2. Good for the Heart: A number of studies have shown that having a pet can help reduce stress, lowering the chances of a heart attack and other cardiac conditions. In one 20-year study, “people who never owned a cat were 40% more likely to die of a heart attack than those who had,” according to Dr. Brunilda Nazario, a health expert for Women’s Health magazine. Petting an animal and interacting with them may also help you produce a more positive outlook on life as well as makes you feel more calm and relaxed.
  • 3. Builds Stronger Immunity: Children growing up around a dog or cat build a stronger immune system and are less likely to develop allergies and asthma. Infants have also been shown to be less likely to develop eczema, a common allergy skin condition that can result in red patches and itchiness, according to Dr. James E. Gern, a pediatrician at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who studied and analyzed allergic reaction, immunity changes, and reactions to bacteria in infants immediately after birth and one year later.
  • 4. Advances Child Development and Behavior: Children can develop strong bonds with pets. I know with my baby, he loves to talk to our cat and one of his first words was “meow.” Pets may offer unconditional love and companionship leading one to feel comfort and trust in them. In fact, therapists and researchers have reported that children with autism sometimes interact better with pets, which may help build interactions with people.
  • 5. Improves Survival Rate: Studies show pets can improve one’s survival rate by improving both mental and medical conditions. In one particular study, “dog owners had a significantly better survival rate one year after a heart attack,” according to Dr. Nazario. Pets have also lessened the risk of other cardiac diseases. There are many other studies that support this point, including one that showed male pet owners had lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels than non-pet owner, which directly impacts one’s health.

This post was written by Wendy Lau a stay-at-home mom and freelance writer based in New York City who also writes for distance learning.

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