Animals as Superheroes: The Mental Health Benefits of Having a Pet
Animals have been humans’ companions for hundreds of years. They are fluffy, furry, feathery, or even scaly! No matter what they are, these little creatures bring a lot of happiness to people. Studies have been conducted to understand how their presence is advantageous to our health, and the results might surprise you. We have put together some of those findings to show how having an animal can benefit you physically and psychologically. So, what’s the big deal with animals? Take a look!
One of the main benefits of having a pet is companionship. Studies show that pet owners have decreased feelings of loneliness. Even if you can’t have a reciprocal conversation with an animal, you still develop a bond with them that helps you feel like you are not alone.
Having a pet can bring more structure to your daily life. With dogs, it can be taking them out for a walk. For other animals, tasks such as cleaning a cage, changing a litter box, or even just brushing their fur can bring some structure to your daily routine, which can ease stress and even encourage you to do more in your day.
Taking your dog out for a walk encourages you to get out of the house, and this can lead to meeting new people. Going to your local park gives you the opportunity to meet new people and socialize, which is good for your mental health.
Having an animal can increase your physical activity, especially with a dog. When you take a dog out for a walk, you are increasing the exercise in your daily routine, and this in turn helps with joint and muscular movement. Studies have shown that this increase in activity improves cardiovascular health and lowers cholesterol levels. It also decreases blood pressure. Some studies even found a decrease in the risk of having a heart attack.
When you pet an animal, your oxytocin levels (the “happy hormone”) increase. This means that just the act of patting and being with an animal can change how you are feeling!
And the physical benefits are not just for the younger population. Studies have shown that older adults who had a cat or dog had better cognitive function than those who did not. This means they were able to remember more details and had a higher attention span.
But most of these benefits are for cat and dog owners!
Your animal doesn’t have to be a dog or cat for you to experience the health benefits we talked about. Although some of the benefits apply more when you have a dog or cat, even having a fish in an aquarium can benefit you in many ways. Don’t forget about creatures such as birds, reptiles, and rodents.
What if I can’t have a pet?
If you cannot have a pet, and would like to take advantage of the benefits discussed above, volunteer at your local pet shelter. Most places look for people who can spend time with animals, by walking the dogs or playing with the cats. Contact your local shelter today to learn more.
Bonus: Dog and Cat Cafés Just Around the Corner!
Did you know that Montreal has several cafés where you can pet and interact with dogs and cats? Here are some places where you can find some new furry friends: