Our Furry Friends and Us
It’s no question that we love our pets. From begging our parents to get us a dog since we were young to visiting the pet store to look at the various animals, or even watching funny cat videos on YouTube, our cute and cuddly companions have always had a special place in our hearts. Not only do they bring smiles to our faces, but they also bring significant benefits to our mental, physical, and societal health. Let’s take a look at some ways pets can positively impact our health.
Pets help us relieve stress and reduce anxiety
While walking by Sproul Plaza on the first Tuesday of every month, have you seen groups of students congregating around, with big smiles on their faces? Most likely you are witnessing the Pet Hugs program at UC Berkeley. Especially during midterm season, petting a dog brings instant stress relief and never fails to put a smile on a stressed out Cal student’s face. Several studies have also indicated that pets help us lower harmful stress hormones such as cortisol, while increasing hormones linked to happiness and relaxation like oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin. Back home, I would often cuddle and pet my dog whenever I felt stressed from school, and I would always feel much better afterwards. Even just watching fish swim around peacefully in an aquarium has always had a calming and relaxing effect on me.
Pets boost our fitness
Having an active pet around encourages pet owners stay fit. I have witnessed this firsthand. After my family adopted my dog several years ago, both my parents have gained a slight obsession with hiking and going on long walks as they try to keep up with our pet. If you’re looking for a family member who can also serve as a loyal and loving fitness partner, a dog may be the right choice for you.
Pets help us form and improve relationships
Although people generally don’t get pets solely for this purpose, as a pet owner, your pet is an instant icebreaker when getting to know other pet owners. Although sometimes it may be hard to connect or interact with strangers, as pet owners you will have at least one thing in common—your pets. Pets are definitely great conversation starters, and they provide good means for us to improve our socialization skills. Who knows what human friendships may bloom at the park, on the hiking trail, or at the vet?
Pets bring us happiness, laughter, and fulfillment
For many pet owners, coming home after work or school and being greeted with excited barks and slobbery kisses or high-pitched meows brightens their day and gives them great joy. Our four-legged friends don’t judge us for our failings; they accept and love us unconditionally for who we are. When we’re lonely or feeling the blues, our pets are always there for us. Many pet owners also find purpose, fulfillment, and self-worth through caring for their pets. For all the health benefits they give us, all our furry friends ask from us is love, frequent cuddles, and belly scratches.
- How Pets Can Improve Your Health <http://pets.webmd.com/ss/slideshow-pets-improve-your-health>
- 5 Ways Pets Can Improve Your Health <http://www.webmd.com/hypertension-high-blood-pressure/features/health-benefits-of-pets>
- Pet Hugs at UC Berkeley <https://uhs.berkeley.edu/home/news/pethugs.shtml>
Article by Jasmine Deng
Feature Image Source: Tega Cay Pharmacy