With food costs, veterinary bills, and the price of good old-fashioned TLC, it may seem as though pets drain our bank accounts at an alarming rate. Of course, any pet parent will argue that they’re worth every penny and more, but it turns out that owning a pet can actually be beneficial to you and offer more than hours of fun spent playing fetch or lounging around on the sofa.
Pets bring out the best in their companions whether they’re trained to provide therapy or picked up their social skills at The School of Hard Meows. And their presence in our lives can even help us save money!
Let’s take a look at the many benefits that come from owning a pet:
Lower blood pressure
We understand why you might be skeptical of this one. Any pet owner who’s found a surprise excavation in their flower garden or a mess on their floor can attest that these aren’t exactly calming experiences. But studies show that pets can have a positive influence on your blood pressure and your heart health. A 2013 study published in Anthrozoos found that pet owners’ blood pressure dropped a few points from its baseline when they were around their cats or dogs.
If you’re still not convinced, the American Heart Association has stated that owning a pet seems to show an association with reduced risk of heart disease. Curative medical care can get pricey pretty quickly, so why not take the preventative step of welcoming a pet into your home and calming those frayed nerves?
Anyone who’s seen a dog owner getting dragged through a park by their rambunctious pup knows that dogs can compel us to exercise more than we would otherwise. A 2017 study used pedometers to find that dog owners averaged 2,750 more steps per day than a matched group of non-owners did. Another study from the Journal of Physical Activity and Health showed that those who walk their dogs are more likely to meet federal minimum fitness benchmarks than those who don’t own dogs.
Exercising daily means reducing your risk of diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and countless other medical conditions. So the next time your dog begs you for a walk when you’re trying to take a nap, grab that leash and head out the door.
Better mental engagement
Cats, dogs, and other animals are frequent guests at hospitals and nursing homes because of their ability to provide stimulation and a sense of purpose to the elderly and those with mental disabilities. Therapy programs have a proven track record of delivering great results when allowing elderly and seriously ill individuals the chance to interact with animals. For these vulnerable populations, owning a pet can be even better than receiving the occasional visit from a therapy dog or cat.
A 2017 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Directors Association found that caregivers of plants, animals, and humans showed improved recovery within the first six months of sustaining serious physical injuries. Since rehabilitation is expensive, your pets don’t just protect you from the mailman; they also look after your physical, mental, and financial well-being.
Dogs and cats don’t come with frightening side effects like many medications. But they can have their downsides. But, as much as we’d like to see every human in the world have a pet and every pet in the world have a home, the responsibility isn’t for everyone.
A 2016 report from Harvard Health estimates that pets can cost around $1,600 per year, and an unexpected health emergency can send that number far higher or necessitate the purchase of pet insurance. But don’t forget all the reasons we’ve given you to be optimistic that pets could save you big money over the course of your life.
If you decide to adopt a pet, be diligent in choosing one that fits your lifestyle. A large, high-energy dog like a golden retriever or a border collie isn’t going to be content spending most of the day alone in your studio apartment. But the right pet can be a great addition to your life — and plenty of them are in your local animal shelter, waiting patiently for a chance to prove it.
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