The Science Behind How Pets Make Us Happier and Healthier

It’s likely, if you’re an animal lover, that you already know that pets are known to offer health benefits for the people that interact with them. But do you know the reasons why?

Woman with dog at beach

Pets help improve the well-being of people of all ages, just by being present.
Photo credit: DepositPhotos.com/golyak

The following infographic, kindly provided by Happify Daily, provides detailed science-based information about how pets affect our well-being. Some of the interesting stats included in the infographic include:

  • More than 74 million cats are owned in the U.S., making them the most popular pet in the country. Dogs follow at number two with 69.9 million. (There’s a reason they say that cats rule! Okay, I just had to get that out. But then, I’m prejudiced. I’m a cat person, though I do love dogs too.)
  • 46% of women say they’d stop and talk to anyone with a cute dog. (Hey, all you men. Listen up! Pets are good icebreakers. But don’t go out and adopt a puppy solely for the purpose of meeting women either. That just makes you pathetic and maybe a little sleazy, as well as irresponsible.)
  • Dog owners are 54% more likely to get the recommended amount of exercise than people without a dog.
  • Feeling blue? Pet a dog – The act boosts levels of feel-good neurotransmitters and hormones endorphins, dopamine, oxytocin and prolactin.

One fact that I was surprised to read is that robotic dogs, at least as evidenced in one study, appeared to be just as effective as real, live, breathing dogs in helping seniors in nursing homes feel less lonely and more connected. I would not have expected that and found it interesting, though I’m not convinced that one study can be considered absolute proof.

I also have a question for you, based on information in the infographic. The infographic recommends keeping your pets out of the bedroom and off of your bed. The reasoning behind this recommendation is that sleep-disturbances are being reported more often, according to doctors at the Mayo Clinic. Another reason cited, though not mentioned in the infographic, is the potential for transmission of disease from pet to person. Frankly, for a pet that is well-cared for and parasite-free (i.e. on a proper parasite preventive program), the risk of disease transmission is minimal. Sleep disturbances, I suppose, can be problematic and are probably more of a concern than disease transmission.

As a veterinarian, I know and accept all that as fact. Still, am I the only one that doesn’t have the heart to keep my cats from sleeping with me? Do you allow your pet to sleep with you? Do you think that being aware of this information about sleep disturbances will make you reconsider sleeping with your pet? For me, the answer is no. Of course, that’s just me. It doesn’t make it right or wrong. I’m interested in how you, my readers, feel?

This observation is not scientific, is purely personal, and is not solid proof of anything in particular, but I find I sleep sounder at home with my cats next to me than I do when I travel and stay in a hotel or less familiar location. I don’t know how much of this is related to being in unfamiliar surroundings and how much is related to missing having my cats with me. But I do know that I do miss my cats under those circumstances and find myself wishing they were with me, sharing the bed, even though I know they’re happier at home in their own environment. Do any of you find that to be similar to your experiences away from home without your pet?

Feel free to leave a comment about whether you sleep with your pet, or about anything else offered here that you find interesting. Moving on, here’s the promised infographic.

pets_happiness 640

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About Lorie Huston, DVM

Lorie Huston is an accomplished veterinarian, an award winning blogger, a talented author and a certified veterinary journalist. She is available for writing assignments, blogging and social media consultation, and SEO strategy.



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