Celebrating the benefits of pets for National Love Your Pet day

Kelley Holland

Pets can bring joy to our lives and are sometimes treated more like family members than pets. In honor of National Love Your Pet Day on Feb. 20, let’s dive into some of the benefits of owning pets.

The National Pet Owners Survey conducted by the American Pet Products Association (APPA) found that 67% of U.S. households own a pet. That’s roughly 85 million families. 

Are these families better off for owning pets? Research says yes. 

In a scientific statement released by the American Heart Association in 2013, it was found that people who owned pets, particularly dogs, tended to have lower blood pressure than those who did not.

Dog owners tend to get more exercise and maintain a healthier body weight because they need to take their dog for a walk a few times per day and they often participate in other outdoor activities. But if you don’t have a dog, don’t worry: Other furry friends provide health benefits too.

Many studies conducted over the years have shown a link between owning pets and having better health, both physically and mentally. According to the CDC, health benefits of having a pet include decreased cholesterol levels and decreased feelings of loneliness, among others. 

Walking around campus, you’re likely to see some students with service or emotional support animals. Have you ever thought about why these animals are recommended?

It turns out that simply petting a cat, or any animal companion, releases oxytocin, a bonding chemical in your brain. This can make you feel less stressed, and is just one of the reasons why people have emotional support animals.

An Australian study showed that cat owners had better psychological health than people without. Subjects of the study reported that they felt happier, more confident, less nervous and were able to sleep better. 

More good news for cat owners: It has also been said that a cat’s purr has therapeutic benefits including decreased stress and lessening the chance of a heart attack.

There’s also good news for those who don’t, or can’t, have any furry friends: Fish! Fish are a little more low-maintenance, and definitely quieter than cats or dogs. But the health benefits remain. 

Although there is not a ton of research, it has been discovered that fish can also help reduce stress and alleviate anxiety. Studies found that interacting with fish in aquariums have the potential to benefit our well-being.

Pets are not only fun to be around, but they’re improving our lives even if we don’t realize it. If you own a pet, give them a few extra treats today. They deserve it. 

Features reporter Kelley Holland can be reached at 270-745-6291 and [email protected].