“Dogs have a way of finding the people who need them, and filling an emptiness we didn’t even know we had.”
The road to our hearts is often paved with paw prints. When we’re lucky enough to have pets, they bring laughter and play and love to our days. In fact, studies show that nearly 100% of pet owners say their animal companions make them smile at least once every day.
In celebration of National Pet Day on April 11, and as part of our mission to help you thrive, we gathered the top eight ways pets can bring more love, more connection, and more wellbeing to your life.
Team member Rebecca’s cat, Nigel.
1. Pets offer loving companionship.
Feeling lonely can cause sadness, depression, or apathy. Caring for an animal helps you feel needed and connected to another living being, even if your furry friend can’t talk back! There’s nothing like coming home to a wagging tail or a purring cat who’s grateful to see you.
2. Pets enhance your heart health.
Studies show that people with pets have lower blood pressure, even during stressful situations, and lower cholesterol levels. In fact, people recovering from heart attacks who have pets live longer than those who don’t, proving that pets have therapeutic effects.
3. Pets ease stress.
Stroking a dog, cat, or other furry friend fulfills our need for loving, soothing touch. Not only do animals appreciate a good belly rub, but petting an animal can offer you calm and comfort, can lower your blood pressure, and can even boost your serotonin and dopamine levels for greater relaxation.
Team member Jason’s dog, Laika.
Team member Debbie’s dogs, Annie and Brownie.
4. Pets invite you to live in the moment.
Pets embody the great spiritual wisdom: be here now. Because they live in the moment, not worrying about yesterday or thinking about what might happen tomorrow, they can help you be here now and appreciate the joys and beauties of the present moment.
5. Pets help you make new connections.
As we get older, making new friends isn’t as easy as when we were in grade school. Having a dog is a great way to meet your neighbors—at the dog park, on walks or hikes. Pets even make for great conversation starters.
6. Pet owners get more exercise.
Caring for a dog often means more walks. Studies show that dog owners are at least 50% more likely to reach the recommended amount of daily physical activity than those without a pet. More exercise means benefits for the body (like the ability to better manage motor symptoms) and the mind (exercise boosts mental wellbeing).
7. Pets help soothe pain.
Having a loving companion like a pet helps ease life’s pains. But pets offer therapeutic benefits with more than emotional pain: a study from Loyola University Health System shows that older adults recovering from surgery need less pain medication if they have a pet or participate in pet therapy.
Team member Alissa’s dog.
8. Caring for a pet adds structure to your day.
Once the kids have left the nest and you’re retired from your career, it can feel like your day lacks the same structure it once did. Caring for a pet, who requires regular feeding and exercise, keeps your routine consistent, which keeps you feeling more balanced and at ease.
9. Caring for a pet gives you more meaning in life.
Being responsible for a pet who looks to you for care and love has the power to deepen your sense of self-worth and purpose. Especially if you’ve adopted a pet from a shelter, waking up each day to your animal companion can offer a sense of meaning knowing you’ve provided a loving home for a pet in need.