Not only are they cute and loyal, pets improve our mental and physical health. There are many benefits to pet ownership.
Valentine’s Day: you either love it or hate it. It’s a day that’s tough to be ambivalent about. For some of the more cynical among us, Valentine’s Day represents a commercial spendfest, a day for lovey-dovey sentiments that seem as sickly sweet as the cheapest box of chocolates.
But even if you don’t have a Valentine sweetheart, you may be in a relationship that’s just as special: the bond that exists between you and your pet. And unlike human relationships, pets fill their owners’ lives with unconditional love 365 days a year (366 days this year).
Health benefits of pets
Pets are loyal companions. They meet you at the door – even if you’ve only been gone 15 minutes, they’re still happy to see you. They never reveal your secrets, criticize your appearance, or cheat on you.
On top of these emotional benefits, pet ownership can also boost your health. Research has shown that pets boost mood and emotional states to lower blood pressure and reduce cardiac arrhythmias. While some studies have found that dogs are most beneficial for health, other studies have found that cats are the top, er, dog, so to speak.
A 2009 study found that people who owned cats at some point in their lives, had a significantly lower risk of death from myocardial infarction (heart attack). Cat owners also had a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, including stroke.
Research has shown that pet owners have lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels than people who don’t own pets.
A group of stockbrokers who adopted a dog or cat were able to lower their blood pressure in stressful situations – to a greater extent than non-pet owners. When we’re under stress, our bodies produce cortisol and norepinephrine, which can create plaque buildup in arteries, leading to heart disease.
Playing with a pet has been shown to increase our levels of serotonin and dopamine, nerve transmitters that improve mood and keep us calm.
Even if you don’t have a human to snuggle up with this Valentine’s Day, the companionship of your loyal dog or cat is providing you with health benefits—with no worries about a nasty breakup in your future.