It’s hard to imagine a world without pets. Sure, we would go on living, but how dull an existence would that be? Every dog or cat owner you meet will have a funny story to tell you about their pet, and some people even have funny fish stories. There are even videos on the internet of the joys pets can bring to our lives. But the joy that pets bring are more than just humor – there is a deep connection that can be formed between humans and animals that, as science is now showing, has an impact on each party’s health.
The breaking story from the American Heart Association
An interesting study in 2013 published by a respected scientific organization called the American Heart Association, showed that people who have dogs are more likely to live longer and have better heart health. There are also several other studies that looked at various disease outcomes and pet ownership.
Most scientific studies start out as an idea because someone observed a phenomenon that they wanted a better explanation for. It’s quite possible that this study was started because people have just been noticing that pet owners tend to be happier and healthier people. And the research is still continuing. Imagine one day in the future if doctors were to start prescribing various kinds of pets instead of medications!
They keep you active
There were several reasons theorized as to how having a pet can improve longevity. The most obvious reason is that pets keep people very active, especially the larger ones. Scientists have also shown that people who own dogs have more hours of physical activity on average. But if you think about it, other pets can keep you quite active too. Cats love to play with those fluffy feathery toys on a string that you have to bounce around all over the house, which burns a decent amount of energy. Taking your rabbit out for a run in the garden can be just as active too.
They train your immune system
This is an interesting interaction between animals and humans. It seems that if a child is raised from birth near an animal, they are much less likely to develop immune responses (allergies) to the animal. Even more amazingly, is that exposure to pets (or more specifically their dirt and grime) trains the immune system to fight a number of diseases and prevents allergies to other substances from developing.
They reduce stress
We don’t think you even need an experiment to prove this. There is nothing like the joyful face of a dog, a cat, a guinea pig, or even a fish (if that’s the sort of pet you enjoy) as you arrive home from a stressful day. It’s impossible to stay uptight when you have this adorable animal greeting you. And that daily reduction in stress is good for all sorts of things including lowering blood pressure, keeping the immune system strong, and stopping the formation of tight muscle spasms. Beyond the physical effects, stress reduction is also really good for keeping mentally healthy.
Pets engage the brain
Several experiments tested the effect of various pets on Alzheimer’s patients. Dogs were the winning species but the principles are still the same. Having an animal to interact with does wonders for the brain and keeps it robust. The science is not strong yet for how pets affect brain health without Alzheimer’s, but there’s certainly no doubt that interacting with a pet causes unique brain activity in humans.