It’s often the case that the things we enjoy most in life are the worst things for us, but luckily, that’s not the case with our pets. The mere presence of a pet in the room can break the ice among strangers and bring smiles and laughter to everyone around, and all that positive energy can only yield good things.

With the great diversity of pets available (even among dog breeds), anyone can find the right fit for their lifestyle and abilities, and reap the benefits of having an animal companion in the home. Animals don’t ask for a lot, but the few simple things we do to care for them really make a difference in their lives.

Advertisement

Thousands of pets out there are in need of a good home, and in exchange for your compassion, they can help you make friends, feel healthier and happier, and might even save your life. What’s not to love?

1. They Improve Your Health

I got it
 

Whether you’re rubbing your dog’s belly, tossing a ball of string for your cat, or watching your fish swim in a tank, a meaningful connection with your pet can elevate your mood and relieve stress. According to psychology professor and pet researcher Allen R. McConnell, PhD, “We found that pet owners, on average, were better off than non-owners, especially when they have a higher-quality relationship with their pets.”

Babies who grow up with pets are less likely to get allergies and asthma because early exposure to allergens like pet dander helps desensitize the immune system to them.

Advertisement

Dog owners fare especially well because they need regular walks. Walking lowers blood pressure and lowers the risk of heart disease. Not to mention the positive effects on the physique.

2. They Make Life More Meaningful

I got it
 
Advertisement

Pets provide companionship and help owners find joy and meaning in their lives, especially if they lack a strong support system. Coming home to a welcoming pet instead of an empty house curbs loneliness, and caring for a pet’s needs helps owners forget about their own problems.

For people with special needs, animals help them cope like nothing else can. Patients with Alzheimer’s feel calmer when a pet is around, even just a fish. Similarly, autistic children are less likely to feel anxious and have outbursts in the presence of their pet. A calmer demeanor makes people more pleasant to be around, improving relations with their family and friends.

Advertisement

3. They Help Your Social Life

I got it
 

All guardians love talking about their animals, sharing funny stories and offering advice about pet care. Simply owning a pet breaks the ice, creating common ground between people and the opportunity for shy and anxious individuals to make friends. A timid person might typically look down and avoid eye contact when passing someone else on the street, but if both people are walking dogs, they can use the “doggie meetup” as an excuse to chat and get to know each other.

4. They Show You How to Live in the Moment

I got it
 

People are always fretting about their jobs, deadlines, chores, romantic relationships, past failures, and other things they have little control over. Though some animals have suffered from abuse, they don’t dwell on the past, which is why they are able to be rehabilitated and begin a new life. Instead, pets live in the moment, fully enjoying a game of fetch or a new toy or cuddling with their owners, never thinking about the “more productive” things they could be doing. By observing their pets, owners learn to take time out for fun and relaxation.

5. They Can Make You More Empathetic

I got it
 

Recent research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology shows that people who were attached to animals as teenagers and young adults are more empathetic than others, perhaps because they were partially responsible for their family pets’ caretaking and witnessed the consequences and benefits of their actions on an animal’s well-being.

Advertisement

Lead image source: Kiidos/Wikipedia Commons

Advertisement