How Pets Enhance Your Home Life

benefits of pets children

There’s nothing like coming home to a pet that acts like you were gone for a week, when you really just took a trip to the store for milk. Or, witnessing a bond like the one between 8-year-old Luke and his diabetic alert dog named Jedi.

“Jedi is really in tune to what’s happening with Luke,” says Dorrie Nuttall, Luke’s mother. If Luke is upset, Jedi is right there to keep him company.

“Jedi is very good at sensing his anxiety, his feelings,” says Nuttall. “It helps a lot, having that comfort for Luke.”

Although Luke and Jedi’s bond is unusual in some ways, the benefits of that bond aren’t confined only to young boys with Type 1 diabetes, or even having a dog that greets you at the door.

Pets enhance our lives at home in many ways: lessening anxiety, providing companionship, and even improving physical health.

“Having a pet in your home is tremendously beneficial,” says Steven Feldman, executive director of HABRI, the Human Animal Bond Research Institute. “The human-animal bond, which is what we study, is something that many pet owners feel, but we’ve put some real science behind that.”

Pets benefit your health

Exercise is an obvious benefit that comes with having a dog. But even the simple act of walking your dog, according to a study by the American Heart Association, can lower cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure.

And, it goes beyond exercise. Studies also show that cats can lower the risk of a heart attack and stroke. “Most people would say, ‘OK, it’s just about walking your dog, it’s about exercise,’” says Feldman. “But a cat in your lap has amazing results.”

Pets benefit your children

When it comes to kids, the benefits of pets aren’t limited to just playtime. Feldman says a child exposed to pets, when in the womb and for the first six months at home, can grow up with a stronger immune system and be less likely to develop allergies.

Pets have also been used to help children with autism, and a HABRI-funded study found that the benefits didn’t stop there. With the presence of a pet in the home, the child’s caregiver experienced less stress and had more positive interactions with the child.

Pets benefit your state of being

benefits of pets mental health

Beyond physical health, there are emotional benefits of pets. Pet parents have an improved sense of well-being, Feldman says. “They’re less likely to be depressed, and pets will relieve stress,” he says. “There are all kinds of mental health benefits.”

According to Feldman, having a pet at home can even affect the chemistry in your brain, reducing cortisol (a stress hormone) and increasing oxytocin (a bonding hormone). In fact, the effect may be mutual. He goes on to say that researchers using an MRI machine found that dogs exposed to the scent of their primary human reacted positively, the pleasure centers of their brains lit up.

“We’ve co-evolved with our canine companions over thousands of years,” Feldman says. “So it is a mutually beneficial relationship.”

Pets benefit your interactions

Pets can also improve social interaction. If you’re walking your dog, chances are that you’ll meet the other dogs in your neighborhood and their pet parents. Those connections and friendships can help you form a support system.

benefits of pets diabetic alert dog

To experience the benefits of pets, though, you must be prepared to care for your pet. Ask yourself these questions to ensure you’re enhancing your pet’s life, too:

  • Do you have the skills and knowledge needed for taking care of your pet?
  • Is your house a good fit for your pet?
  • Do you have a good veterinarian?
  • Do you have adequate financial resources?
  • Do you have the time to spend with your pet?

“You want to think about the kind of pet that’s right for you,” says Feldman. “You want to make sure that your home is ready to have a pet and that you’re prepared to care for it. If you do all those things, then you’re going to have a stronger human-animal bond and enjoy these health benefits.”

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