Pets are pretty great, and most Aussies tend to agree. According to consumer researchers Canstar, we have one of the highest rates of pet ownership globally, with nearly 2 in 3 Australian households hosting a furry friend in their family. There’s the unconditional love, cuddles on the couch, and Skippy the Bush Kangaroo and Lassie the Collie Dog even managed to solve the odd crime. You may be less aware however of many physical and mental health benefits in owning a dog, cat or some other obscure choice of pet.
Pets divert attention from our ailments
Extensive research has shown that within merely a month of owning a cat or dog, minor illnesses and physical health complaints were substantially reduced among new pet owners. Other similar studies identify that pet owners report fewer doctor visits and lower blood pressure or cholesterol levels. By focusing on the health and wellbeing of another creature, we are less bothered by the smaller or non-life-threatening ailments that may get us down if we are entirely focused on ourselves all the time.
Pets put smiles on our dials
Pet owners enjoy greater self-esteem and higher levels of emotional wellbeing and mental health. Among those surveyed who had recently lost a spouse, pets proved a powerful buffer against grief, with lower levels of depression found within this cohort than those recently widowed who did not own a pet. For those experiencing generally high stress levels, patting or talking to a pet is a proven antidote, with research indicating lower blood pressure levels when interacting with animals.
Pets help break the ice
We often think of humans as providing care for pets, but oftentimes the relationship is a reciprocal one. Pets can provide a reason to get up in the morning for a lonely or introverted owner. The furry friend can facilitate social interactions between people who may not have cause to otherwise interact and can help the pet owner build social networks. Pets can be a real ice breaker in conversation, such as a chat in a formal work meeting where colleagues can find common ground over their love for a similar type of dog or cat.
Pets make you move more
Feeling slow or sluggish? A pet can be your best personal trainer as you help keep them fit and healthy. Pets have an innate need to get moving and it’s a rare specimen of a dog that doesn’t jump for joy at the sound of a leash near the front door. Research identified that people who acquired a dog increased their recreational walking by 48 minutes per week, a notable increase in exercise levels that can contribute to us living longer, healthier lives.