By Ann Jarema

Over 60 percent of households in the United States have a pet, and this is with good reason. Pets provide families with countless hours of cuddles and laughter. Owning a dog or a cat, whether that pet is a rescue or straight from a reputable breeder, pets bring lots of happiness into our lives.

Aside from the cuteness and the cuddles, pets can bring a wide variety of health benefits. Most notably, pets help to improve self-esteem in their owners. As pet ownership requires more physical activity, especially with a dog, it means that there is a need for regular exercise. That daily walk with Fido can help both human and dog in countless ways. Not only can you make cardiovascular improvements to your body, but the sheer act of getting outdoors draws out the endorphins, which make you feel happier. And, when you feel happy, your self-esteem inevitably rises too.

Pets can also help to reduce feelings of loneliness. Cats and dogs help to fill a void that those who live alone often experience. That unconditional love can help pet owners to live a more meaningful existence. And though pets can’t necessarily keep up with a two-way verbal dialogue, they are significantly intuitive and can sense when their owners want to play, or when they are feeling down and need some extra love.

Though it takes work to own and care for a pet, pet ownership can help reduce feelings of stress. In fact, countless organizations all over the world that promote the use of pets for those that are experiencing grief. Dogs are often brought to hospitals, retirement communities, and even funerals so that people can pet them as a way to help themselves feel calmer. The simple act of petting a dog can create a sense of calm and peace and can make it easier to get through difficult times.

Of course, the majority of people like pets. So, one of the biggest benefits of a pet is that they help us to become more social. When out with your dog for a walk, it isn’t all that uncommon to get into a conversation with a passerby. Perhaps the conversation will start by focusing on the dog, but over time, who knows where that conversation might go? Dogs can help us to make new friends!

A pet in your life can create benefits in a myriad of ways. From both physical and mental health benefits, our pets love us unconditionally and can support us through the highs and lows of life. And all they ask of us is to be loved in return.

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