How Your Pets Make You Healthier

updated May 3, 2019
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(Image credit: Brittany Purlee)

You love your pets, and you know they love you back (unconditionally, too). But did you know that your pets can actually have a positive impact on your health—both physically and mentally? Living with animals can make a huge difference in your life, and not just in your daily routine.

Whether you’re a cat or dog person (or even a guinea pig person!) here are some of the health benefits you get out of living with your furry—or maybe even scaly—friends. And if you’re already considering adopting a pet, well, these benefits can’t hurt, right?

Pets are good for your heart

First, did you know that having pets can actually help reduce your risk of heart disease? According to the Center for Disease Control, having at least one pet can lower your cholesterol, triglyceride levels and reduce your blood pressure. Along with that, a scientific statement from the American Heart Association reinforces these findings, noting that several studies have found that pet ownership has a correlation with lower systolic blood pressure. And while there is less data on the correlation between lipid levels and pet ownership, some studies did find that pet owners had lower triglyceride levels as well. The statement also noted that most (but not all) published studies on the topic found that there is a beneficial relationship between pet ownership and the heart’s response to stress. The conclusion? Pets can definitely be good for your heart health—especially dogs.

(Image credit: Sandra Rojo)

They can help you relax

Allowing pets to sleep in your bed may sound ridiculous to some, but if you’re not one of those people (personally, I’m on team snuggle your pets) this should come as no surprise: sleeping with your pets can actually can benefit your health. While, according to CBS Pittsburgh, sleep experts have thought pets to be disruptive to sleep (and 20 percent of pet owners agree), it turns out that 41 percent of pet owners believe sleeping with their pets is helpful, making them feel more secure and helping them relax. Of course, sleeping with your pets means you have to wash your sheets much more frequently, but if you’re the kind of person who loves to curl up with your pets, you probably don’t mind the extra laundry. All that unconditional love is worth it, right?

They can boost your mood

It’s been proven time and time again that pets can make you a happier person overall. Their companionship decreases loneliness, and can even make you more socially outgoing and exhibit higher self esteem, according to a study covered by Psychology Today. The study also found that pet owners had healthier relationship styles, being less fearful and preoccupied—and that being close with their pets helped them be closer to other people as well—than non pet owners. Pet owners also noted that they got just as much support from their pets as they do from family members. A second study backed these findings up, noting that people with pets again had higher self-esteem and were less depressed, less lonely, and less stressed.

(Image credit: Anna Spaller)

Your kids will benefit

If you have—or are planning on having kids—pets can also benefit their health and wellbeing. Children tend to form very strong bonds with their pets—so much so, that a recent study found that kids like their pets more than they like their own siblings, according to People. But it goes beyond their feelings about their pets versus their siblings; children see pets as a trustworthy, non-judgmental being they can disclose things to, and shows that pets can help foster social and emotional skills. Not only that, but research has also found that children who grow up with pets may be less likely to develop allergies. As Time reported, infants (under a year old) who lived with cats—and dogs, in some cases—were only half as likely to be allergic to them as teenagers than those who grew up without cats. It seems that exposure to their allergens and bacteria can help strengthen the immune system, according to the researchers.

You’ll get more exercise

Okay, so for this one, you don’t really need a study to back it up—of course, some pets won’t really affect you all that much in this department, but animals that require outdoor exercise definitely will. Think about it: if you have to walk your dog every day, at least twice a day, you’ll have set exercise scheduled into your day. Every time your dog needs to go out, you’re getting more steps in, and while it may not be the equivalent to going hard at the gym (if that’s your thing) it definitely gets you active and moving, and you can always up the ante and take your pup for a run instead of a walk.