5 Reasons Why Pets Make us so Happy

Why pets make us happy? Pet owners will know the joy of having a furry friend around the house. A cuddly companion who listens and doesn’t judge (well maybe your cat might give you a disapproving look from time to time), and who loves us unconditionally. Owning a pet is proven to boost your emotional, mental and physical health too, so it’s no wonder a whopping 12 million British households already have one.

Pets can bring perks no matter what your age, and they can dramatically increase the quality of your life. So if you’re thinking about adding a furry or maybe even a feathered member to your family, read on to find out why having a pet could make you a happier and healthier person. 

 

A cat lying in bed under a white duvet
Credit: Kate Stone Matheson
  1. Pets keep you active

A dog is probably the best personal trainer you could ask for, dragging you out several times a day, come rain or shine. All dog breeds need regular, daily walks in order to stay happy and healthy. And us humans do too! Some people find it more challenging to keep active as they get older, so owning a dog could be the perfect answer. Studies have shown that those who take their dogs out regularly have more physical stamina, can walk more quickly and for longer periods of time, and have increased mobility around the house. Plus, all that time outdoors increases your level of vitamin D which helps keep your bones strong. And you’re much less likely to be overweight. 

 

  1. They make people more sociable

Human beings are naturally social creatures, but sadly, loneliness is all too common among the elderly. Being isolated can raise the risk of stroke, depression and heart disease, and it can increase the overall likelihood of mortality by a staggering 26%. But do not fear! Owning a pet can make it easier to connect with other people. The pet owning community is an incredibly friendly one, and you won’t have to walk too far before you bump into a fellow dog walker. Having a pet is a great way to meet new people as you instantly have something in common, and you’ll quite often see the same familiar faces while you’re out and about. And who knows, little Rocky may help you meet the love of your life too!

 

  1. Owning a pet is good for your heart

Many studies suggest that owning a pet promotes good heart health. Increasing your physical activity can help lower cholesterol, blood pressure and triglyceride levels, which reduces the risk of heart disease. Amazingly, owning a pet can increase your chances of surviving a heart attack too! Pet ownership has also been shown to reduce stress levels and anxiety by helping us to relax and unwind after a busy day. Simply stroking your cat, or watching your goldfish swim around in their tank can whisk your worries away.

 

  1. Pets can make you feel safe

If you live alone, having a pet can make you feel a lot safer. Not everyone likes being home alone, especially if you live out in the sticks, or feel quite vulnerable or isolated. But having your companion around can make you feel more comfortable. If you’re concerned about burglars, make it obvious that your house is clearly home to a dog. Some breeds make excellent guard dogs for you and your neighbours, and they’ll also protect you when you’re out and about, especially at night.

 

  1. Great for making you stick to a routine

Structuring your days becomes even more important as we get older, especially after retirement. Without anything meaningful to do, a person’s cognitive abilities can decline, and the risk of depression increases. But owning a pet can help you stick to a routine through feeding, walking, grooming and playing. Inconsistent daily schedules can be stressful for your pets too. Dogs in particular like predictability, and a good daily routine can help keep your dogs behaviour in check, and established routine feeding times can also keep their weight under control.

 

An elderly man in a white shirt holding a Chihuahua dog on his lap
Credit: Angelina Litvin

What type of pet is best for seniors?

The advantages of owning a pet are undeniable, but there are a few things to consider before you adopt a furry friend. A pet, whether it be a cat, a dog, or a bird, is a big commitment, and one which needs to be well thought through. Here are a few things to consider:

 

Have you had a pet before? First-timers can make great owners, but you’ll need to do your research if you’ve not had a pet, or a specific breed or species before.

 

Do you have any mobility issues? Pets can make wonderful companions, but dogs can be a challenge for people with limited mobility. Dogs need regular exercise, so if you might find this difficult, a cat or goldfish could be a better option.

 

What age pet would be best? An energetic puppy or kitten may not be a good idea for an elderly owner as they need a lot of intensive care and training. And sadly, young pets can sometimes outlive their owners. Also remember that some pets, like parrots and tortoises have extra long life spans, so an older animal, or a well-trained rescue could be the perfect choice.

 

What about temperament? It’s very important to research different breeds and their characteristics before getting a pet. Older people often opt for smaller dogs as a more manageable option, but small breeds like a Jack Russell or a Miniature Poodle can be very high energy and require a great deal of exercise and commitment. Though every animal is unique, so it’s vital you spend time getting to know a new potential pet if you can before you adopt them.

 

What type of habitat do they need? Cats and dogs are probably the easiest pets to keep in terms of habitat. Fish, birds and reptiles require a little more know-how. You need to ensure the cage or tank is large enough to house your pet comfortably, while ensuring they are kept at the right temperature (particularly important for fish and reptiles). They must have good ventilation, and their environment must be kept clean. Make sure you do your research or speak to a veterinarian before you make your decision.

 

Can you afford it? Owning a pet requires a significant long-term financial commitment. Food, grooming and vet bills can soon add up to a pretty penny, so make sure you carefully consider your budget before you take a new pet home. Older pets may need to visit the vets more often, so you’ll also need to work out how you’ll get them there. It may also be wise to take out pet insurance to help you out with those bills if the unexpected should happen. 

 

Dog Bed

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Once you’ve made the exciting decision to adopt a pet, it’s a good idea to check out your local animal shelter. This is usually a much less expensive option compared to going to a breeder, and it comes with the added benefit of giving an unwanted animal a loving new home. The shelter will know each animal’s personality and they can help you find your perfect companion. 

 

“What do you love about your pet? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.”

Read here – 4 of the best dog breeds for an older person

 

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