Pet Super-Powers! How Pets Can Improve Your Health

By Andri Lysandrou

The most important thing a person can have in life is good health. So what better way is there to stay healthy (or heal!) then getting yourself a furry friend. It has been proven that owning a pet can improve both your physical and mental health. Every year brings new research and discoveries on how pets can benefit your general health and well-being as well as help specific illnesses such as Alzheimer’s and Clinical Depression by offering a sense of calm and a wonderful distraction.

All types of pets can benefit a human’s health. However it has been proven that those which you can develop a close personal bond with help the most, such as cats and dogs. They can help you through many physical and mental difficulties in your life and allow you to experience the sheer joy of unconditional love.

Read on to discover how the fluffy little pups you see in the park or the scruffy old dog with the sad eyes in the local rescue centre can help improve your overall health, well-being and quality of life.

Don’t Worry, Be Happy

Improve your health by reducing your stress levels - relax with your cat!There is no doubt, as any animal lover will tell you, that just touching or being near an animal can be therapeutic. There is nothing like the feeling of stroking your rabbit’s super soft fur, listening to your cat’s low rumbling purr or being comforted by your dog’s rhythmic panting. Research has proven that the mere presence of your pet enhances your mood and lifts symptoms of depression by offering an alternative focus of mind. The mere distraction and presence of an animal can be sheer joy and just the simplicity of perhaps brushing your dog’s fluffy coat or feeling your cat knead your chest, can release the feel good chemical Endorphins. Make sure  you take time to have daily interaction and physical contact with your pet and just feel the stress lift from your shoulders!

Calm Down Dear!

Pets have been known to help control blood pressure, regulate heart rate and lower cholesterol levels. They have also been proven to help reduce stress and anxiety related illnesses by creating a calming atmosphere with familiar, repetitive noises and behaviours. Why not keep a picture of your pet on your desk at work to help keep stress at bay? Or grab your dog for an impromptu run in the park every time you experience anxiety? (Your dog will love you forever!). Make time throughout the day for stroking your moggie or hugging your Pug.  Create that loving bond and you will see and feel the benefits.

How Not To ‘Feel The Burn’

Owning a pet can increase your daily activity level by as much as 70% (yes really!).  If your current daily routine is getting up, going to work, sitting at your desk, going home, slumping on the sofa with an eventual progression to collapsing in bed, you are not alone! You can easily change this lifestyle with a new pet! Imagine, waking up to be greeted by an excited pet that needs walking or feeding/stimulation, giving your dog a good walk and play time twice a day, pet grooming, mucking out your hamster or rabbit cage or running around with a piece of string for your cat whilst tidying the house. Pets encourage activity in more ways than you can imagine. Not just through routine walking and playing but through impromptu activities that may arise on a daily basis. Dog walking is of course the best way to increase your daily physical activity as it helps strengthen bones to prevent Osteoporosis, keeps your joints supple, prevents obesity and strengthens your heart and other muscles. Exercise creates energy! The more you do, the easier and more fun it will get and you will feel GREAT! We all know that exercise can be boring, but what if you have a happy, enthusiastic, excited, full of energy pup to keep you company? It won’t even feel like exercise.  Think about it.

Pleased To Meet You

Walking your pet can be apart of your healthly lifestyleFrom meeting other dog walkers in the park, to joining training sessions or doggie social groups, your pet can greatly increase your social circle. When out walking your dog it’s more than likely your furry friend will engage with other dogs in the hope of finding a possible new play mate.  Why not take advantage of this and strike up conversation with the owner? You never know, this person may become a new friend, fantastic work colleague or even a future romantic partner. Dog walking is a fantastic way to meet new people, not only because you already have something in common with the other person (your dogs!) but because you will likely be at your most comfortable and content relaxed state of mind, ready to engage in conversation. You will be instantly more approachable in this kind of environment and you may just be surprised at how keen and willing the other person will be to talk to you.

Best Buds

As well as increasing your social circle, pets are a fantastic form of companionship. Whichever events may happen in your life good or bad, your pet will always be there for you and will be your best friend.  They love your company and you’ll never be lonely with a pet in the house. They provide another heart-beat, another breath, another sound.  They’re there for cuddles, for tears, for happiness, for fun. Their face is in yours when you wake up, they run to the door when you get home from work, they follow you around the house, they sit and watch TV with you, they eat their dinner with you and they fall asleep with you. Why do they do all this? YOU are their best friend, their mummy, their daddy, their world. It’s all about YOU and it always will be.  Who could ask for a better friend than that?

Like a Broken Record

When your cat is on your lap with its eyes half closed, it’s listening. When your dog is playing with its toy in the corner, it’s listening. When your rabbit is nibbling on its carrot, it’s listening. Pets are ready to listen to your woes, entertain your tantrums, be within arm’s reach for unlimited snuggles and love you no matter what. Getting things off your chest to your pet is a great way to relieve stress and give you a sense that someone is there for you, who will always listen and more importantly, keep all your secrets. When you are moaning about your colleagues, talking incessantly about your new love and being over excited about that holiday, your pet will never judge your decisions, think you’re crazy with your ideas or tire of you complaining about your bills. They’re just happy to hear it all and provide you with the comfort you need.

Laughter Is a Tonic

Talking to your pet helps your health!The very appearance and behaviour of some animals can make you smile. Take a tiny Chihuahua barking at a Great Dane, a monkey plotting to steal someone’s sandwich or a cat fast asleep on its back with its paws flailing about in the air. All these things and more can bring an unavoidable smile to your face. However, the mischief animals can get up to can have you in stitches. The cat that decides to climb the Christmas tree (in order straighten the angel of course), the dog that gets its head stuck in a shoe, the hamster that chases its tail and the parrot that comes out with a rude quip. All stupid, all funny, all animals! Take photos or videos and share with your friends and family. Build up a gallery for your wall or put a picture in your wallet to make you smile every day of the week. Laughing is a great way to relieve stress, shift your mind to a better place and remind you to put life in perspective. Of everything that pets provide, this has to be one of the greatest.

The Big Boost 

Owning a pet from a young age can help combat allergies and strengthen you immunity. It’s been proven that children who are exposed to cats and dogs in the house whilst growing up have fewer allergies and fewer illnesses. Researchers in California discovered through a study of children under the age of one, that those living with dogs developed 31% fewer respiratory tract symptoms or infections, 44% fewer ear infections and received 29% fewer antibiotic prescriptions. The speculation is that perhaps exposing your children to dirt and bacteria through animals, especially dogs, strengthens their immune system or indeed it could be the benefit of simply having animals around that encourage good health in children. The research continues, however what the research definitely proves, is that animals in the house with children should be encouraged and parents shouldn’t be scared to have pets near their children or feel the need to get rid of their pets when expecting a child.

Beware Of The Dog

German ShepherdOwning a dog can increase general house security and make you feel much safer in your home. For those who live alone, nights can be an especially scary time. Every unusual noise in the house can make you anxious. Those who are particularly vulnerable such as the elderly and disabled can benefit hugely from having a dog. Dogs not only offer protection for the nights but for the days when you are alone in the house or for your home security when you are out. Children can also get very scared at night and the night-time ‘monster under the bed’ can keep them from sleeping. What about a dog or cat sleeping next to them to keep them company? Family pets are a friend to your child and their presence will increase the child’s sense of security.

There are of course certain breeds of dog that are more alert than others and have a natural instinct to protect. Common protective dog breeds and indeed popular pets in the UK are German Shepherds, Bull Mastiffs and Staffordshire Bull Terriers. These breeds are renowned to form a very strong bond with owners, are very intelligent and have a natural protective instinct. Even small dogs can increase home security and there are many small dog breeds that are also very protective. Take the humble Pomeranian. This cute bundle of fur will make one hell of a noise if their owner is approached by a stranger and they are renowned for regularly alerting their owner to all strange and unfamiliar noises in the house. Watch out when you put on that vacuum cleaner!

Making the decision to own a pet is an important one and should not be taken lightly. A pet is a lifelong commitment so please ensure you think long and hard before you make that all important decision.  If you do decide to acquire a pet you will be sure to feel the benefits immediately! Good luck in the search for your Super Pet!


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