Over the years, several studies have shown that animal friends not only make us happy, they also reduce the risk of heart disease, lower stress levels, ease anxiety and contribute positively to our overall health. February 20 is National Love Your Pet Day and to mark the occasion we’re celebrating all of the ways our pets make us healthier.
- Pets increase our daily activity.
Your dog’s not the only one who should get excited for walks: In a study of 5,200 Japanese adults, dog owners were 54 percent more likely to get the recommended amount of daily physical activity than non-owners. Dog owners are also less likely to develop heart disease because of their activity levels.
- Pets help to reduce anxiety.
There’s nothing better after a long day than cuddles with your cat or dog (or rabbit, or turtle—you get the idea). In fact, simply picking up a pet instantly reduces anxiety levels. In one particular study, even participants who initially said they weren’t animal lovers saw reduced anxiety after petting an animal.
- Pets are a great companion.
For the elderly, pets can prevent loneliness and depression. In a 2016 study, elderly people who were given crickets (yes, crickets) to look after in a cage became less depressed after eight weeks versus their cricket-less peers. The act of caring for another living creature, be it crickets or kitties, seems to make a significant difference in peoples’ moods and happiness levels.
- Pets help build young ones’ immunity.
Pets are also good for little ones. Babies raised in families with pets have been found to have a lesser risk for developing allergies and asthma later in life. Another study found that babies living in a home with a cat or dog have fewer colds and ear infections during their first year versus infants in a pet-free household.
- Pets are great for therapeutic purposes.
Horses have long been used for therapeutic purposes. In children, simply grooming and leading a horse around has been shown to reduce PTSD symptoms.
- Pets boost your social wellbeing.
Pets can even help us be more social—an important part of overall wellbeing. Research has shown that the presence of pets in a classroom significantly increases social interaction between children with autism and their peers. Children also displayed more positive emotions and behaviors like smiling and laughing when in the presence of classroom pets.
Make sure to thank your furry (or feathery, scaly, slimy or slippery) friend for all they add to your life—and Happy National Love Your Pet Day!