*A guest post by Kamira Gayle, Author of Impurrfectlife.com– A blog about finding normalcy after pet loss.
Being a pet owner has so many advantages that outweigh any negatives. It’s more than just the shared bond and love that we receive from our furry family members. We also gain many emotional and physical benefits. As pet owners we share a common thread: an improved quality of life. Here are 9 ways in which, pets improve our physical and emotional health.
9 Ways Pets Improve our Physical and Emotional Health
1. Reduced stress
Being a pet parent means that we often times experience reduced stress as compared to someone without a pet. How you ask? When we interact with our pets and play or pet them, we relax and our body releases less cortisol (stress hormone) and increases the release of dopamine (feel good hormone) in the brain. A cat’s purr has been shown to promote soothing effects and healing. The sound and vibration help to calm the body. Additionally, pet owners are found to have lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol and resting heart rates as compared to non-pet owners. These are heart health benefits to our body.
2. Positivity Booster
Spending time with our pets makes us happy and bring us joy. Sharing activities and quality time with them helps ease symptoms of depression and sadness. How can those cute little munchkins not make you smile? Pets help alter our mood and bring us happiness and comfort at the end of a long day. They are the consistent source of joy in an uncertain world.
3. Illness Detection
Both dogs and cats have the ability to detect certain illnesses in humans. There have been instances where dogs and cats have helped save lives because they were able to use their natural instincts to detect low blood sugar, oncoming epileptic seizures and even cancer. Pets have been able to warn their owner something is wrong by alerting them via certain behaviours such as licking the impacted area of infection. The pet’s ability to be in tune has helped save lives; bring comfort and a sense of security to their owners.
4. Special needs/Therapy Assistance
Pets have also been known to not only detect illness in humans but also have been able to ease symptoms of anxiety, anger and stress in people suffering from ailments like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD. Many military veterans returning from tours of duty suffer from the after effects of war and have trouble coping and adjusting back into society. Certain organizations like K9 for Warriors are designed to help veterans with PTSD by pairing them up with a dog to help ease their anxiety.
Cats and dogs are able to be trained to provide assistance in a therapeutic capacity with physical therapy involving patients suffering from effects of a stroke as well as provide emotional comfort for terminally ill patients. An organization called Pawprints was created to help promote human and animal bond connection while giving comfort to elderly and sick patients in need. This is a win-win for both animals and people. Homeless animals are given purpose and patients are given support. It’s a beautiful thing.
5. Importance of Sleep
If it’s one thing cats can show you is how to get enough sleep. I wrote a blog post called It’s Time To Get your Sleep On discussing the importance of sleep. Nowadays, we have a much faster pace of life compared to generations prior and that means fitting in more work in the hours of the day. Add onto that our responsibilities of life including jobs, significant others, hobbies, kids, fitness, etc. As much as we want to get done in a day, many times we sacrifice sleep to get everything done.
As pet owners, our cats demonstrate exactly how they fit in those extra Zzzzz. They sleep at night but also fit in cat naps throughout the day. We can take note. Taking a cat nap for about 30 minutes will help us to feel refreshed and refocused. Studies have also shown that taking brief naps help boost our learning, memory and creativity. So with this in mind, take a page from the cat diary and fit in a cat nap for better health.
6. Increased physical Activity
Our pets help keep us a little more active. Dogs win in this department since they tend to be walked outside in the fresh air to relieve themselves. Although cats tend to remain indoors more, pet owners can take a more hands on approach during playtime with cats. Instead of using that laser pointer, get a ball of yard and run up and down the stairs. Watch as your cat follows your lead. Either way, our pets help motivate us to get up off that couch and interact in play time. Getting physical activity and more steps in per day is great for our overall physical health and mobility.
7. Teachable Life Lessons
Having the responsibilities of owning a pet helps prepare us for life by adding a regular routine and responsibility to our day. For pet owners that have children, it’s a great way to help to train them early on the importance of being dependable and reliable. Being responsible for the welfare of another being will help to provide compassion, understanding and a new found sense of maturity. Although, having pets is fun, it’s also a big responsibility and requires 100% commitment. Caring for our pets teaches us compassion, hard work, and dedication.
Our furry friends are quite entertaining at times. Having fun means learning to live in the moment. Cats and dogs do a great job of showing us this. Have you ever seen your pet play in the snow or run in the rain? They don’t have a care in the world. Our pets are not concerned about tomorrow or next year, because they are living for today. They are living in the moment and enjoying life. We can take a note from them. Tomorrow’s not promised so make today count. Don’t sweat the small stuff and count your blessings today.
Thirdly, pets also teach us about the cycle of life. Children and adults alike eventually learn that death is a part of life and in that process we learn how to cope with grief. Dealing with aspects of death, grief and the unexpected things that happen in life are all important lessons. Pets help prepare us in all these areas from A to Z.
Understanding unconditional love, joy, compassion, hard work and commitment or the realities of death, illness and grief; these are all essential life lessons and skills we need in our journey called life.
8. Improved Socialisation
Our pets help us to become more socialised. In a world where everyone is entranced in their smart phone, our pets help provide an avenue for us to communicate and to socialise offline. Whether you take your dog to the park outside or visit a dog show, other pet owners and strangers alike take notice and want to interact with you based on your shared interests in pets.
On the other hand, shy children and adults that are introverts or otherwise socially challenged, find it a bit easier to engage in social settings if an animal is present. The anxiety and fear of being the focus of attention is removed off of themselves and the focus is shifted to the animal. This allows one to feel more comfortable and thereby able to better communicate and interact with others.
9. Unconditional LOVE
Finally, the number one way our pets improve our life is through their never-ending love. The love our pets show us is non-judgemental, non-conditional and infinite. The love of a pet is one that is the true definition of unconditional love. They don’t care about designer clothes, bad breath, status or fancy cars. Pets offer us a non judgement zone and atmosphere. Where there is care, compassion and love there is a home for both you and your pet. There is no better feeling than to have your heart filled with joy and love from family…especially family with paws.