Everyone knows that pets can put a smile on any face, and there are lots of benefits of having a dog or a cat. Along with generally making us happy, research shows that owning a pet can reduce our stress levels, and even make us less depressed. They can also improve fitness, help children learn and improve feelings of isolation or loneliness.
We’ve partnered with Dogs for Good to talk you through the 9 benefits of owning a pet.
1. Pets make you happy
To put it simply, our pets can help to lift our mood and make us feel happier. A survey of 2,000 parents by MORE THAN revealed that the majority of those with dogs felt that their companion positively impacted family life.
In fact, of those surveyed, parents with a dog were more likely to say that their family life was ‘very happy’ (36%) than those without one (23%). A huge 72% of parents said their dog brought their family closer together.
From their warm cuddles to the endless ball throwing and chasing games, our pets certainly keep us on our toes, but they also provide a relationship and bond like no other.
3. Pets help with loneliness
Research shows that 80% of pet owners say their pet makes them feel less lonely.
Having a pet in our homes or by our side when we’re out and about can make us feel less alone and more safe, especially in certain situations such as going out in the dark, walking in unknown places, or just to talk to and be there.
Studies carried out during the Coronavirus pandemic in 2020 showed that the majority of pet owners found their animals to be a source of considerable support.
4. Dogs can help with your fitness
Having a dog will, of course, help to increase your energy levels and keep you active.
Owning a dog has been associated with probable decreased cardiovascular risk*, and an improved response to stress. You don’t need to go out hiking for hours either. Playing in the garden or throwing a ball around in the park is enough to help reach your daily exercise goals, while keeping your dog happy and healthy too.
Exercising with your pet can even help to improve the bond between you. If you have a new puppy, exercise can be combined with their training, plus it helps burn off some of their boundless energy.
Whether you're walking, running, hiking, or even swimming, any form of activity is bound to help improve your health and fitness levels. Check out your local footpaths, beaches, and woodland for the best walks for you and your four-legged companion.
5. Pets can reduce stress and anxiety
Spending time with a pet can help boost our mental health, and research shows that petting a dog can reduce stress levels*. After all, they're by our side through big life events, as well as our daily ups and downs.
Introducing pets or therapy animals in healthcare environments such as hospitals and care homes can help reduce depression and anxiety in elderly people. They can also assist with recovery, and simply keep people company when they need it most.
Our in-house vet, Martin, says “I think all of us who own a pet can relate to the calming influence and happiness of a cuddle or playtime with a furry friend after a tough day”.
6. Pets can help children learn
Whether you have young children or teenagers, pets make wonderful companions and are often there with you to witness those key milestones as your children grow up.
Pets can help to equip children with essential life skills, from taking on responsibilities to forming daily routines. They can also help with children's learning in the classroom.
Children can also get involved in training a new pet, which can help them to understand different behaviours, including being rewarded for positive actions and how their actions affect others.
7. Pets can help people with disabilities
Dogs make great companions for people with learning and physical disabilities.
Assistance dogs are used to help people with disabilities manage every day tasks, both in the home and when out and about.
Check out this real-life story from our partners at Dogs for Good, and find out more about Simon's inspiring story with his assistance dog, Axel.
For children with autism, having an assistance or family dog can be hugely beneficial. Joel and Caddie's real-life story highlights the positive impact that an autism assistance dog can have on the whole family.
8. Pets can help us cope with a crisis
As well as providing everyday support with health and happiness, our pets can really help us get through a crisis or personal trauma such as bereavement.
We all go through tough times, but no matter what, our furry friends are always there to make us feel at ease. In fact, research has shown that service dogs help with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
9. New pets can be a great companion for an older one
You might already have an older pet and are thinking about bringing a puppy or kitten home to keep them company. This can be great for socialising your puppy, and having a senior dog around the house could really help to boost your new pups confidence.
A puppy is likely to learn and imitate behaviours from other dogs, and this can be an advantage with training. Having a puppy around may also help keep your older dog engaged and active.
It’s important to take things slowly when introducing a new, younger pet to your older one, especially as there are likely to be behavioural differences.
Our in-house vet, Martin, says “A new pet entering the home, can really invigorate an older pet, giving them a new playmate and company when us humans are not at home. Speak to your vet about the best ways to integrate a new pet into a household”.
Getting a dog or a cat
Preparing for a dog is a big commitment and one that should be considered and researched thoroughly. You’ll need to consider the cost implications, as well as the time you need to spend training and socialising them, and more.
It’s also worth considering adopting a dog or cat rather than buying, and speaking with a number of rescue centres to find your perfect match.
*Study originally published in 2019