Pets aren't just fun to have around. Research has shown that owning a pet can help increase our general happiness, reduce stress and increase exercise and quality of life. Most people want to own a pet for companionship. After all, animals offer unconditional loyalty. Money can’t buy that special feeling when your dog wags its tail on your return, or your cat curls up on your lap purring contentedly. These everyday joys can be a reminder to slow down in our increasingly busy and complicated lives.
Studies have shown they can even lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels while also lowering the levels of cardiovascular disease. Pet owners also visit their doctors up to 15% less often than those without pets.
Research from the University of Western Australia shows that more than 70% of pet owners reported rarely or never feeling lonely. And the likelihood of achieving the recommended level of physical activity per week is a whopping seven times higher for dog owners who walked with their dog five or more times per week. In fact, in the UWA study, dog owners reported 55 more minutes of total physical activity per week than non-owners.
Having a pet may well be the solution to reducing the stress of modern living. Graphic designer Judith Love says that their six-year-old chocolate-brown labrador named Bear has brought unconditional love to her family of four, and helped keep them healthy.
“All of us are happier and get out more because of Bear,” says Love. “We walk him at least once a day, so he keeps us fit. Having Bear has also taught my sons – who are 17 and 11 – discipline, because walking him is part of their chores and they love it. A lot of our conversations are based around Bear and the funny things he’s always doing, so having a pet has really brought our family together and taught us to be more nurturing.”
She adds, smiling, “It has also brought an enormous amount of happiness and brought us closer to our community. We’ve met lots of new friends, as people are much more likely to talk to you when you have a dog. With each new area we live in, Bear immediately gets us mixing with our neighbours. Having Bear allows us to quickly integrate into a new community, which is really important. Bear also gives the kids a sense of pride, safety and belonging. Having a dog definitely adds a wonderful extra layer and a huge amount of humour to life.”