Nothing is quite like having a furry companion to greet you when you come home from a long day at work. Roughly 68 percent of American households count a pet as one of their family members, and not just because they’re cute and fluffy — they actually provide quite a few health benefits.

Let’s take a look at a few of the health benefits of owning a pet, such as their effect on your emotions and family life.

Benefits of Owning a Pet Infographic

Emotional Benefits of Owning a Pet

Having a pet isn’t just good for your mood — it can be beneficial for your health, too. For example, a pet can help:

  • Minimize Stress: First, owning a dog or a cat can help to reduce your stress levels. One study found that completing a task with a pet around made the pet owner experience less stress than being around other people during the same task.
  • Lower Blood Pressure: Having a dog at home can also help lower blood pressure in individuals with high blood pressure — in some cases, even better than medication. Pet owners in one study were found to have lower blood pressure and heart rates than those without pets. In an amusing side note, when the non-pet owners found out the results of the study, many of them went out and got pets of their own.
  • Reduce Anxiety: Regarding mental health, pets have been found to reduce anxiety. By reducing anxiety, pets can also help patients with chronic pain — especially people with arthritis and migraines or those who are recovering from surgery.
  • Improve Heart Health: Pet owners have been found to have lower cholesterol and lower triglyceride levels than people who don’t own pets. Owning a cat can also reduce your risk of stroke by up to 40 percent.

Home and Family Benefits

What sort of benefits can you expect to see in your home by adding a pet to the mix? A few potential outcomes include:

  • Feeling Less Lonely: People who live in homes with pets are less lonely. Just having a pet — whether you choose a dog, a cat, a snake or a hamster — in the house can boost your mood and improve your outlook.
  • Getting Sick Less: Kids get sick — it’s part of being a kid — but having a pet in a home with a child can help them develop a stronger immune system than those raised in a home without a pet. This is just one of the many benefits of having a pet for a child.
  • More Responsible Children: Pets also teach children confidence and responsibility — even if you as the parent end up taking care of them half the time.
  • More Sociable Kids: Pets can also help children learn how to socialize and increase verbal skills. This can be especially important for children with special needs who might be having trouble learning how to speak or interact with other children their age.
  • Improved Security: Home security is one of the primary reasons for owning a pet — especially a big dog. A survey of inmates that had been convicted of breaking and entering found that big or loud dogs would often prevent them from breaking into a home. Even if your dog is the sweetest, friendliest ball of fluff in the world, a potential burglar doesn’t know that — and it might be the one thing keeping your house safe.

Including a pet in your home isn’t just good for your kids — it can be helpful for you, too. Take a trip to your local animal shelter or pet rescue and see if there’s a dog or cat there who looks like they’ll fit well in your home. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t find one on the first visit. Just remember, you don’t pick your pet — your pet chooses you.

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