Ask any pet owner what the benefit of having a pet is and you’ll probably hear “unconditional love.” Having an animal companion around is always a mood booster, but they’re especially helpful in times of stress. Animals are a wonderful source of social and emotional support, which makes them great for avoiding loneliness and isolation.
This isn’t the only benefit of cohabiting with a pet. Other research shows that the benefits of pet ownership might be much more widespread than we think. In addition to helping with isolation, having a pet around can also help you physically, mentally, and socially.
For example, a recent study found that dog owners tend to live healthier lifestyles. Having to walk a dog every day forces a person to exercise. This in turn can improve cardiovascular health.
Additionally, simply spending time with a pet may produce oxytocin and prolactin. These hormones help facilitate bonding and reduce stress. The benefits aren’t just mental, either. Pet owners may also enjoy lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and feeling generally calmer. More research is required to definitively link lower levels of anxiety and depression to owning a pet. However, anecdotally, many people would say that having a four-legged friend around enriches life.
For dog owners, having a pet is an excuse to socialize. Taking your dog to local dog parks, hiking trails, or even on walks around the neighborhood is a simple way to connect with others.
Of course, though pets may bring joy to our lives, they do come with challenges, too. Young pets like puppies and kittens have lots of energy that can be difficult to keep up with. They’ll also require training, which can really test both your and your pet’s patience. Finally, as you get older, it may become more difficult to keep up with the physical demands of pet ownership if you face mobility challenges.
While these factors don’t have to prevent you from adopting a pet, they’re important to keep in mind. There are plenty of dog trainers and walkers out there, just be sure to consider this expense before you adopt.
Whether you want to bring a new pet into your life is a personal decision. There are some downsides, but there are plenty of upsides that make the challenges worth the unconditional love you receive.