10 Mental & Physical Health Benefits of Having Pets. Pets are amazing. They’re members of the family and they need love, health care, attention, just like humans do.

The benefits of having pets are delightful — and scientifically proven. Pets help people live longer, happier, and healthier lives mentally and physically. The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) compiles the latest information on healthy activities that pets can contribute to a household. They help make the case for adding a pet to a home by reducing the risk of heart attacks to alleviating loneliness.

Better Mental Health

People with pets are likely to have a positive mental health because of the emotional work and practical work. The emotional work is alleviating worries, stress, and depression. You may notice your pet reacting instantly when you’re upset or sad. Their intuition is what makes them great support animals as well as therapy animals. Animal-assisted therapy is effective in treating PTSD, anxiety, and depression. Then there’s the practical work that comes with caring for a pet. This means developing a routine of walks and feeding times that helps you feel like you’re the center of attention!

The Data: Pets and Mental Health

According to the 2016 HABRI study, pets contribute to a stronger sense of identity in pet owners with mental health conditions. They helped reduce perceptions of a mental health ailment or diagnosis, and provide a sense of security and routine in relationships that reinforces stable cognition. Pets are also a distraction and disruption from distressing symptoms and encourage routine exercise for those who care for them.

Better Physical Health

Dogs are more likely to meet the criteria for regular moderate exercise, which can contribute to them being much healthier overall. Pets have consistent impacts on a variety of health-related factors such as blood pressure, stress, and mortality rates. Cat parents aren’t left out in terms of health benefits either! Just like dogs, cats reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. According to HABRI’s study, people without cats have a 40% higher risk with heart attacks than those without feline friends.

The Data: Pets and Physical Health

Dog walking is a great way to get and stay in shape. If you regularly walk your dog, you’re likely to be healthier than most people. In a study from 2005, the results found that 60% of dog walkers met the criteria for regular moderate or vigorous leisure-time physical activity, compared to about 45% for non‑dog owners or people who did not own dogs. There was also a significant impact on blood pressure with the presence of a pet dog or cat. Additionally, according to a study done over 2,400 cat owners found there was a less relative risk of death brought on by cardiovascular disease during 20 years of follow-up.

Healthier Aging Process

Benefits of pet companionship include reducing stress, providing social stimulation, helping with pain management and interactions with health care providers. In addition to promoting exercise and helping with long-term diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia, pets also assist in the treatment of caters and cancer patients.

Research has shown that pets help combat feelings of loneliness and depression in older adults. Even beyond the benefits of companionship, animals promote exercise and reduce stress as well as mitigate long-term diseases such as Alzheimer’s or dementia. Pet companionship is also important for patients at hospitals and cancer centers in that animals assist in pain management and with interactions with doctors. Patients also respond better to treatments and report improvements in their quality of life when paired with furry little friends.

The Data: Pets and Aging 

For an older adult with mental illness, depression can be difficult to overcome. That’s why pet ownership – as well as being a loving companion – can be so important. This is proven by studies that have found that Animal Assisted Therapy leads to reduced depression and improved cognitive function among those living in long term care facilities.

While some may view the idea of pet ownership as a liability, research suggests that pet ownership might actually be a tool for helping people cope with loneliness. A one-year study examining the impact of animal assisted therapy on individuals with chronic pain demonstrated that following animal assisted therapy, patients reported lower levels of pain, discomfort and stress. In addition, a one-year study conducted in long-term care facilities found that animal assisted therapy also significantly reduced depressive symptoms and improved cognitive function.