It’s a good thing baby pets are so cute. Adorable puppy dog eyes and a kitten’s playfulness are perfect foils to the aggravation of pet growing pains. (Can you say chewed-up shoes, scratches everywhere and indoor accidents?) Besides the entertainment of simply watching them grow and discover life’s adventures, experienced pet owners understand the long-lasting joy on the other side of “growing pains.” This is a special bond that can only come from spending years of pure companionship with a furry friend.
Did you know there are scientifically proven benefits to sharing your home with a pet? Let’s take a look at just a few ways pets positively impact both physical and emotional wellness.
Simply put: Pet owners, particularly those with pooches, get more exercise. As summarized in The New York Times, University of Liverpool researchers were able to prove that families with dogs are more active in general and about four times more likely than others to meet guidelines for daily physical activity. (This is true for both adults and kids.) The study showed that dog owners average around five hours per week walking their dogs, and they also spent more time doing solo activities like jogging, bike-riding and working out at the gym.
Besides the obvious human-animal bond, pets are shown to expand connections between humans. If you’ve ever taken a cute dog for a walk, you’ve probably been stopped a few times by strangers and ended up chit-chatting with people you’d otherwise never have met. Similarly, when you visit someone’s home for the first time, an inquisitive cat or exotic bird can make conversation easy and reduce social jitters. Bonus: Having a few good friends is correlated with both better emotional wellness and physical health.
You know the rom-com tactic of someone using a cute puppy to start a conversation with a stranger they’re attracted to? You may think you’re too savvy to fall for this in real life, but some studies demonstrate that, in fact, people with pets are perceived as more attractive. Key findings in a Match.com survey support this idea, with more than half of respondents saying “they would find someone more attractive if they knew he or she had adopted a pet” and most saying that a date’s pet says a lot about their personality. People whose dating profile photos include dogs were assumed to be happier, calmer and safer.
Simply interacting with a pet positively impacts your body’s ability to manage stress. Specifically, whether you’re stroking it on your lap or playing fetch, these interactions influence the production of stress-regulating dopamine (which boosts mood) and cortisol (which is tasked with counteracting negative effects of stress on metabolism and blood sugar). Cuddling with your pet and feeling its unconditional love imparts oxytocin-like feelings that are known to reduce stress and anxiousness.
Recent research suggests that having animals with fur around during their childhood lessens a person’s likelihood of developing allergies and even asthma. One study showed that, besides less incidence of eczema, infants who were exposed to animal fur had fewer animal allergies and stronger immune systems in general.
If you have a pet, you can rest easy knowing the good it’s bringing to your life... remember to treat them well in return. If you’re currently going through the rough adolescent stage of new pet ownership, stay the course, confident in the knowledge that immeasurable benefits and everlasting memories lie ahead.