This article was last updated on May 19, 2020.
Owning a pet has many health benefits — they lift our spirits and brighten our moods. But the benefits of pet ownership extend well beyond companionship.
The health benefits of owning a pet
They get you moving
Dog owners are 34 percent more likely External Site to fit in 150 minutes of walking per week (30 minutes, five days a week), than people who do not have canine companions, according to a Michigan State University study. Even after a walk, dogs keep their owners moving, by increasing leisure-time physical activity by 69 percent. An active lifestyle can increase your life span, keep your heart healthy, aid in weight loss and protect you from disease.
They give you a reason to get outside
Walking a dog or playing with a canine companion outdoors means fresh air and sunshine. Being outdoors can lift your mood and provide a healthy boost of the vitamin D your body needs to absorb calcium, maintain healthy bones, and protect against chronic disease.
They help your social life
There’s nothing like a pet to give you opportunities to connect with new people. Dog obedience classes, going to the dog park, or simply taking the cat to the vet will open up all kinds of opportunities to start a conversation and get to know more people in your community.
Pets are entertaining
Pets are simply fun to watch and even more fun to talk about. And once you start talking about your cat’s silly antics, it’s hard to stop. Even watching cat videos online can boost your mood External Site and make you feel more energetic and positive, according to a 2015 study at Indiana University, Bloomington.
They provide routine
The responsibility of pet ownership, and the routine of feeding, playing with and caring for a pet can provide a strong sense of purpose. You might not feel like getting out of bed, but when your cat is begging for breakfast, it’s hard to say no.
They can reduce stress
Petting and grooming is not only good for your four-legged friend, it’s good for you. It increases the levels of hormones serotonin and dopamine in your brain, which can reduce stress levels and help improve memory and concentration. Oxytocin, the hormone related to stress and anxiety, is also released when you show your pet affection. Oxytocin reduces blood pressure and lowers stress levels.
Pets provide unconditional love
If you have or ever had a pet, you know how great it is to have someone there for you, no matter how you look, how you feel, or what you’re doing. Some cats or dogs will seek you out when you’re feeling down. They will simply be there for you, ready and willing to listen. Pets don’t require clever conversation or much for entertainment.
Dog people vs. cat people
Wondering if there are more dog people or more cat people? Approximately 48 percent of all households in the United States have a dog, and 38 percent have a cat. However, due to multiple cat households, there are more cats (around 94 million) in American homes than dogs (around 90 million).
Older animals make for great pets
Older dogs and cats often make the best pets:
What you see is what you get.
Older pets have a history, which makes their personality much more predictable than that of a puppy or kitten. You are sure of the size, color, coat, and what types of special needs might be required.
Older dogs are typically house-trained.
Many are used to life with people. Some older dogs have manners and can obey basic commands such as sit, stay and down.
Older dogs and cats tend to be less destructive.
Most older pets are well past the stage where they are teething, chewing or excessively scratching.
You can teach an old dog new tricks.
It’s true. Older dogs are often more attentive than puppies and more eager to please their humans.