We've all heard it before: Owning a pet is a big responsibility. I remember rolling my eyes at my parents as they tried to explain this concept to me during my pre-teen years, but my desire for a kitten at the time outweighed any thoughts of cleaning out a litter box, or making sure the cat had adequate amounts of food and water.
As an adult, I now fully understand the requirements of being a good pet owner. But, just because it takes time and effort, it doesn't mean owning a pet is all work. In fact, if you do it right, it's mostly a bunch of play.
Something to smile about
Your cat's purr as she rubs her cheek against yours. Your dog's wagging tail and excitement as you walk in the door after a stressful day at work. For pet owners, it's no secret that our four-legged friends bring us comfort, happiness and joy. And there are plenty of scientific studies to back that fact.
Get Ready for Summer with Your Dog
As the long, sun-filled days of summer approach, many of us struggle to shed the few extra pounds we added for wintertime insulation. Luckily, a few activities you can do with your dog will help get you both healthy and ready for the beach.
- Running. It's not for every dog (or every person), but the benefits of running are numerous for you and Fido. Not a runner? Start by walking briskly. Before you know it, you'll be ready to increase the pace, and decrease your waistline.
- Doga. Yep, you guessed it. It's yoga for you and your dog. Think relaxing, harmonizing, stress-reducing, and bonding with your four-legged pal. It's bliss.
- Playing. Getting into shape doesn't have to be all work for either of you. Take some time to play around together while trying to keep your heart rate elevated.
(Consult your veterinarian before beginning an exercise program for your pet.)
According to a 2011 study by Miami University and St. Louis University, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (JPSP), pets increase a person's sense of belonging, self-esteem and meaningful existence. Researchers also found pet owners were happier, healthier and more adjusted than non-owners, and that the emotional benefits of pet ownership can be equal to those of human friendship.
Pet owners are 40% less likely to develop anxiety and 30% less likely to develop depression. After only a few moments with a pet, hormone levels associated with stress are lowered, and brain chemicals associated with well-being increase.
It's not all in your head
With the many documented mental and emotional benefits of having a pet, it's probably no shock that pet owners also enjoy physical health benefits. Dr. Stanley Coren, professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia, noted in a 2009 article for Psychology Today, that an Australian study of 5,741 people revealed pet owners had lower levels of blood pressure and cholesterol than non-owners, even when both groups had the same poor lifestyles involving smoking and high-fat diets.
Pet owners are more likely to be physically active, and are less likely to be obese than non owners. They also have a lower risk of dying from any cardiac disease, including heart failure.
Another study showed that children with hypertension lowered their blood pressure while petting their dog. And, according to researchers, when children grow up in a home with a dog or cat, they are less likely to develop allergies. Kids with ADHD also benefit from having pets, learning to be responsible, releasing excess energy while playing and experiencing unconditional love—helping them to learn about self-esteem.
With all of the benefits associated with pet ownership, it's really a no-brainer. Check out WebMD's slideshow: "27 ways pets can improve your health" for additional benefits of being a pet owner.
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