6 Ways Having a Pet Can Improve Your Life

I totally love my cats, they are part of my family!

Having a pet is good for us in so many ways.  Whether we are old or young, single or part of a large family, a pet changes the way we feel about ourselves, our abilities, and our possibilities.  It is such a positive experience, enriching our lives and warming our hearts.

img_1836I’m a cat person.  I’ve always had a cat and can’t image my home without one.  My cat isn’t my pet, it’s a member of my family.  I love coming home and having my boy run up to greet me.  He rubs against my legs and looks up at me with his big wide eyes that say he missed me.  No matter how difficult my day has been, I forget it all about it when I see his eager face.

And I’m not unique with how I feel.  The majority of people with pets feel a close bond with them, like they are their children.  We do tend to treat our ‘children’ extremely well, often to the point of beyond spoiled.  We pamper them, give in to their every whim and worry about them if we’ll be home late past their feed time.  Our pets live in loving homes, coddled and cared for.

The benefits to our pets are obvious.  But what about the benefits to us, especially as we age?  Should we have a pet as we get older, especially if we are living alone?

The 6 reasons why having a pet improves our lives

1 – Pets help reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness as they provide us with a sense of being wanted and needed.  We feel we are not alone when we are with them.  Pets give us someone to talk to, especially when we are sad or stressed.  We tell our pets things we wouldn’t tell anyone else.  They provide us with feelings of trust and security that are often hard to find from others.

2 – People with pets tend to live longer as research shows overwhelming benefits to both our mental and physical health from having pets.   They are found to be an indicator of survival in heart attack patients by 3%, which means that for every one million people suffering from heart disease, 30,000 will be saved because they have a pet.  Having a pet encourages us to stay healthy so we are there for them.  Pet owners tend to visit their doctor regularly, take less medicine and recover quicker from illnesses. This has reduced health care in Australia by an estimated $1.5 Billion annually.

wilbur-doing-yoga3 – Pets provide stress relief as our physical contact with them is calming.  Pets seem to sense our moods and provide comfort exactly when we need it.  They help us manage stress by lowering our blood pressure and pulse rate from the hugging and stroking.  Hugging provides our bodies with oxytocin, a stress-reducing hormone that lowers blood pressure and heart rate.  And stroking an animal boosts our serotonin and dopamine levels, which also helps lower our blood pressure and heart rate.

4 – Pets give us a sense of purpose and help people, especially seniors, to focus on something other than their physical problems and any negativity about aging.  Pets provide us with a daily routine, giving us something to nurture and care for.  And this give our days structure and activities to do each day with feedings at set times, walks, brushings and playtimes.  This helps give meaning to our days and a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day.

5 – Pets improve our mental health as interacting with them brightens up our lives.  They give us something to look forward to, an easy means of entertainment as well as joy, happiness, and a sense of responsibility.  All of this and the fact that we are able to care for them, as well as care for ourselves, helps us build our self-esteem and self-confidence.

6 – Pets reduce depression by providing us with a love that is unconditional and non-judgmental.  Many people prefer pets to friends, as we can be more open and honest with our pets since we don’t fear any repercussions or consequences flowing from our behavior.   In addition to love, pets make us feel needed and wanted.  They distract us from our daily challenges, putting us into a different reality, which reduces the depression from the tension and stress of our daily lives.

img_1817It turns out that the benefits of having a pet is very positive for us as well as for our pets.  With condos and apartments, not to mention the many retirement homes that are adopting a pet-friendly policy, there is no reason by we call can’t benefit from sharing our lives with a pet.

And for those that are unsure if a pet would work in your lives, you can always contact your local SPCA and inquire about short-term foster care.  This will give you the experience of having a pet as well as providing a much needed community service.  There are so many unfortunate animals that desperately need a loving home as they patiently wait for their ‘forever home’.

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This article was first published by Sixty and Me, a website and newsletter specializing in being passionate about living well, embracing change, trying new things, meeting new friends and exploring new lifestyles.  Please click the following link to access  Article in Sixty and Me.

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