So your kid’s been hounding you for months or even years to adopt a family pet. While all they see is furry fun, cuddles and kisses, all you see is work, work and more work. But, if you can get the entire family to help out with the responsibility of a new pet, you’ll find that adopting a family pet can come with a lot of benefits.
Sure, you’ll make more friends at the park when you have an adorable pooch by your side. And if you get the right breed of dog, you basically have a built-in babysitter for your kids. But there are also a range of health benefits that come with adopting a pet.
1. Pet ownership reduces physical and psychological stress
Okay, yes, in some instances, pet ownership might increase your stress — like when they pee on the rug right before your mother-in-law arrives, or when they drop a stinky load under the dining room table. However, overall, pet ownership has been proven to reduce stress.
Studies have found that being around pets helps you better deal with stressful situations, sometimes even more than being around a loved one may help. Other studies find that pet owners overall experience less dramatic physiological responses to stress (like increased heart rate and blood pressure).
2. Pets improve your likelihood of surviving a heart attack
Maybe it ties into the reduced stress benefit, maybe not, but the research is clear. Pet owners, according to the American Journal of Cardiology, are more likely to survive longer after a heart attack.
3. Pets could prevent your kids from developing allergies later in life
While this benefit won’t necessarily help the adults in your household, if you have a younger child, they could benefit from having a family pet long into the rest of their life. This is because having a pet alters your body’s response to allergens. It essentially teaches your body that there’s nothing to fear from dog or cat hair.
When your child is exposed to dog or cat hair and dandruff at a young age, studies have shown that it’s highly likely that they never develop dog or cat allergies at all.
4. Pet ownership helps lower your cholesterol
According to the CDC, pet owners generally have lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Maybe it’s because having a dog or cat naturally means you’ll be more active. After all, Fido isn’t going to walk himself, and when Kitty gets stuck in a tree, you’re going to be the one climbing up to get her.
On a similar note, dog owners are often at a significantly lower risk of developing heart disease. This is largely due to all that heart-healthy activity dog owners get in on the daily.
5. Pet ownership offers mental health benefits, too
Having a pet around can make you feel less lonely. Some studies have even found that pets help children with ADHD, pets can help increase your focus and concentration when working from home and pets can help former alcoholics or drug addicts resist relapse.
6. Pets can help you recover from injuries and surgery
Surgery patients who own pets and spend time with those pets during recovery are less likely to need heavy pain killers.
Similarly, cat owners can benefit from cat purrs when it comes to healing bones and muscle. Cat purrs vibrate at 20–140 HZ, a vibration frequency that helps humans on the mend when they’re exposed to it.
7. Pets can help improve your sleep
If you have trouble sleeping already, then you may worry that having a pet in the bed will only lead to more disturbances. However, a Mayo Clinic Center for Sleep Medicine study found that pet owners sleep better thanks to their pets, especially women.
But Picking the Right Pet is Important
While having a pet around comes with a ton of great benefits, you won’t experience those benefits as much if you don’t pick the right pet for you and your family. Adopting a pet is serious business. You want to make sure you take all of the different facets of pet ownership into consideration.
For example, pregnant women are advised by the CDC to avoid adopting a new cat. Sometimes cats can carry parasites that cause birth defects (though this isn’t a worry if you already own a cat and then become pregnant).
Then, once you have a pet in your house, you’ll want to ensure you practice healthy habits around them. This includes always washing your hands after handling pet equipment, pet food and pet waste. Then, before eating or drinking, always wash your hands to remove any germs that your pet may have passed on to you when you were petting them or giving them a cuddle.
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