How Your Pet Saves Your Life
Most people who have pets love them dearly and consider them part of their family. They love coming home to their dog wagging their tail, so excited to see them. Or love waking up to their cat kneading their chest. Most folks know that there are health benefits to loving a pet, but most don’t know what they are. There’s solid evidence that pets can improve your cardiovascular health. There’s growing evidence that pets can also help with PTSD and depression. And even help you get great friends.
The research is still growing, but I think one of the biggest benefits from loving a pet is the unconditional love and acceptance. Your dog is always happy to see you when you get home, no matter what. It doesn’t matter if you are punishing yourself with the shame replay and going over things you said you thought were stupid or a small mistake at work. Your dog is going to wag his tail and love you. We don’t often act like it in our culture, but love and acceptance are basic needs. Your pet gets that, they don’t think you are weird for wanting to snuggle them or sing to them. They need attention too and aren’t shy about nuzzling you or meowing until they get it.
The great thing about it, is that it’s a two-way street. You really love your pet too. You sing to your cat while you’re in the shower or talk to them when you’re stressed out. You get to express your love in freeing, silly ways that often feel weird with other adults. And when things get rough, they help keep you going. When you’re depressed and don’t want to get out of bed, you know you have to let the dog out or feed your cat. When you have a nightmare and wake up, you snuggle your pet. They won’t judge you for having trouble sleeping, or watching a reality TV show to wind down and fall back asleep. For many who grew up in an abusive or neglectful home, their pets were their confidants, their only source of affection, and often feel that their childhood pets helped them make it to adulthood. I’ve known a few people who said they wouldn’t have been able to heal from trauma without their pet. They often say their pet saved their life.
They aren’t exaggerating. Your pet is saving your life right now. Increased cardiovascular health alone means that loving a pet gives you years of life. Also, they’re pretty adorable so, win-win.
But I can’t have a pet!
You might have a landlord that doesn’t allow pets. Or maybe you know that your schedule makes it really hard to have the kind of dog you really want. Although a lot of health benefits come from folks who have live-in pets, you can still regularly connect with loving animals by volunteering at your local humane society. Or maybe you have amazing neighbors that leave town sometimes, volunteer to house sit for their cat or dog. Maybe one of your friends has a cat that’s adopted you, and regularly sits on your lap when you visit; visit your friends more often. You can still get some pet affection in your life, you might just need to be creative until you can get a better landlord or a more pet friendly schedule.