The Surprising Health Benefits of Having Pets

Posted by Christine moghadam

Maybe you’re a dog person or maybe you’re a cat person. Or maybe you prefer the company of a rabbit. Whatever your preference, one thing is for sure: pets are wonderful companions that provide both mental and physical support. It’s not without reason that dogs are called a man’s best friend. 

Today, 68% of U.S. households (about 85 million families) own a pet, according to a 2017-2018 survey done by the AmericanPet Products Association (APPA).

Pets of all shapes and sizes provide benefits to their owners. The companionship of a pet helps eliminate loneliness and depression. Regular walking or playing with pets can decrease blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and triglyceride levels.

Health Benefits of Having Pets

Benefits of Having a Pet

Pet adoption isn’t for everyone. But those of us who have made this choice clearly see the benefits of having a pet at home. Studies have shown that the relationship between people and their pets can lower stress and increase happiness. 

Pets, especially dogs, are known for providing a sense of security to their owners. And for families with children, pets help teach responsibility and develop nurturing and empathy skills.

From an improved immune system to early cancer detection, pets provide us with countless blessings. And here are just a few additional benefits associated with having a pet: 

- Decreased blood pressure
- Decreased cholesterol levels
- Decreased triglyceride levels
- Decreased feelings of loneliness
- Increased opportunities for exercise and outdoor activities
- Increased opportunities for socialization

Health Benefits of Pets Dog on Yoga Mat

Adopt the Right Pet

It’s clear that having a pet provides many benefits. But at the same time, owning a pet is a large responsibility. Before you make the commitment, you need to consider whether your lifestyle will allow you to care for a pet.

Your home, health, finances, and schedule need to be able to accommodate the needs of your furry friend. According to The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average pet owner spends between $500 to $1,600 per year on a pet. If you believe your life can accommodate a pet, then your next step is to decide what type of pet would be best.

Before you consider pet adoption, do yourself (and your future pet) a favor and do some research. Consider the following questions if you’re thinking about getting a pet:

- What does the pet eat?
- How much exercise does the pet need?
- How large will it become?
- How much will it cost for veterinary care?
- Do I have enough time to properly care for and clean up after the pet?
- What type of habitat does this pet need?
- What type of exercise does this pet need?
- Are pets allowed in my house, apartment, or condominium?
- Are there young children, older people, or people with weak immune systems who will be around the pet?

Dog on Yoga Mat

Other Things to Consider Before Adopting a Pet

There’s a good chance you have a friend or family member with a pet. It’s a good idea to ask her to come along with you when you decide to go pick out a pet. Whether you’re going to your local shelter or rescue to adopt a pet, she may be able to provide helpful insight from her personal experience. 

You can also seek the advice of a veterinarian to discuss what type of pet would best suit your lifestyle. Here are a few other things you should keep in mind before you get a pet: 

- Cats can carry a parasite that causes toxoplasmosis — a disease that can cause birth defects. So, if you’re pregnant avoid adopting or handling cats in general. If you already have a cat, just be sure its litter box is changed regularly.
- Again, for those of you who are pregnant, you should also avoid rodents since they can expose you to the lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus, which can cause birth defects. If you’re pregnant and already have a pet rodent, avoid contact with your rodent and have someone else clean its habitat.
- Reptiles (turtles, lizards, snakes), amphibians (frogs, toads), and backyard poultry can carry harmful germs that easily spread to small children. If you have children under the age of 5 you may want to avoid keeping these animals as pets. 

Caring for an animal is a big responsibility, but the surprising benefits of having pets are unmistakable. If you decide that your lifestyle can accommodate a pet, then it’s certain you and your family will benefit from its company.