1. They Help You Through Hard Times
Psychologists agree, pets provide hope when life gets rough. In one experiment, when study participants experienced the pain of social rejection and were then asked to think about their pets, their spirits lifted. The unconditional love of a pet can help give us more emotional resilience.
2. You’ll Be More Relaxed
Pets have been shown to reduce stress, anxiety and depression. Stroking a dog or cat for just 15 minutes is enough to lower the ‘stress hormone’ cortisol and cause the brain to release the calming ‘cuddle hormone’ oxytocin. To increase feelings of relaxation, psychologists suggest matching your breathing rate to your pet's, making eye contact and listening to their heartbeat.
3. They Can Boost Your Self-Esteem
Forget self-help books, studies have shown people with pets are more likely to have higher self-esteem than those who don’t. Why? Our animal companions instil a sense of self-worth by reminding us of our ability to make a positive impact on the life of another.
4. You’ll Be Fitter
This one is especially true for dog owners. Pets that need to be walked and/or played with throughout the day help people get towards their recommended 30 minutes of daily exercise. One study found that 83% of people felt their dog made them more active, with 72% saying getting a dog changed their exercise choices for the better.
5. You Could Live Longer
Not only are you more likely to be fitter, chances are you’ll enjoy a longer life too. Owning a pet is linked to having lower blood pressure, which reduces the chance of heart disease. In a 2017 study of 3.4m people, dog ownership was linked to a longer lifespan – people who lived alone with a dog had a 33% reduced risk of death, and an 11% reduced risk of cardiovascular disease than people who lived alone without a dog.
6. They Make You More Responsible
Being responsible for keeping another living creature happy and healthy is a big commitment – and one that can change both adults and children for the better. Psychologists agree having pets is a great way to teach children about responsibility and ensuring young boys take part in ‘parent play’ – a skill often only girls are subjected to. Plus, as an adult they can help you stick to a schedule and provide a major incentive to stick to a budget and save money for emergency funds.
7. You’ll Connect Better With Others
Having a pet is proven to make people more agreeable to be around and improve their relationships with others. Not only are people with pets noticeably more patient, responsible and affectionate, one study of prison inmates found that those who cared for animals had better social skills and exhibited less violent behaviour. Even just having a dog around is enough to lower aggressiveness and other problem behaviours.
8. They Encourage Laughter
Let’s face it, life can be stressful. Pets make it far easier to see the brighter side of things – from laughing at your own dog’s clumsy antics to cracking up at a cat video on YouTube. In fact, these funny cat videos – which make up some of the most viewed content on the web – are proven to positively influence the emotions of viewers. So, even if you don’t have a pet, you can reap the mood-boosting benefits.
9. You’ll Be Less Lonely
Having a pet means you’ll always have a companion to spend time with at home. Plus, dog owners in particular are more likely to interact with other humans – taking your dog for a walk means people are more likely to stop and say hello. One study showed that people aged 60 and over – an age strongly linked with loneliness – made fewer visits to medical centres if they own a dog or cat and were four times less likely to be clinically depressed.
10. They Make You Happy
Plain and simple, having a pet makes people feel happier. From waking up in the morning with enthusiasm and a feeling of purpose, to adopting healthier habits that in turn improve emotional wellbeing, countless surveys show pets are a pretty wise investment.