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Why Do Pet Owners Live Longer?

Updated on February 12, 2010

If you have a pet, or if you’ve ever owned a pet, you probably already know that having a “furkid” around can add a lot of happiness to your life. Sure, caring for an animal can be time consuming and sometimes expensive, but there are few other sources for such unconditional love and acceptance. Your dog or cat won’t care if you’re old, handicapped, overweight, short, or badly dressed. It will adore you, no matter what.

Numerous studies across the globe show that pet owners live longer and enjoy better overall health in general. They experience less stress, lower blood pressure, and a lower risk of depression. This is probably due to the fact that pet ownership is a nurturing commitment. The animal needs you for its survival and well being.

Owning a pet gives a sense of purpose to an otherwise “empty” life. Caring for the beloved dog or cat helps keep many people suffering from depression from just “giving up.” They have to do regular chores and activities for and with the animals, which helps keep these people active and involved in life.

Also, pet owners recover more quickly from illnesses, including cardiovascular incidents. A 2008 study showed that cardiac patients who owned a dog or cat recovered more quickly and had a much less incidence of related death.

Just holding a dog or cat or stroking one begins to relieve stress levels in the human almost immediately. This action stops or decreases the production of stress-related hormones, which have been found to have numerous negative impacts on the body.

Pet ownership can benefit anyone, but it seems especially important to the elderly. For one thing, many of them live alone, or they don’t get out much. A pet provides a lot of company for these people, and makes them feel less alone and isolated.

This is one reason pet therapy has become so popular in nursing homes. Most of these senior citizens love petting and playing with the animals. I’ve been involved with pet therapy at a local nursing home with my Great Dane, Hamlet. At first, I thought that perhaps the “old folks” might be afraid of Hammie because of his enormous size. Much to my delight, out of around 50 or 60 patients, only one was scared of my pooch. All the others couldn’t wait to pet him and talk sweetly to him. My big boy just “ate up” all the attention!

Another example of where pet therapy has shown to be extremely effective is with abused children. Even kids who have been reticent to “open up” or accept other humans often have no problems relating to pets. They can tell their secrets to an animal without fear of them being repeated. They can hug and cuddle a pet, and it never repels their advances. And unless a dog or cat has an underlying problem with aggression, pets are never abusive.

I’ve known several seemingly cold-hearted, callous humans act totally different with a pet than they do with their fellow man. Why is that? It’s because pets never judge us. We can totally be ourselves around them and let our inner child come out to play. We can love them as much as we want and shower them with affection, and they’ll never find us too clingy or too emotionally needy.

I can’t imagine life without my furkids! I have two wonderful Great Danes that live inside with my husband and me, and we feed numerous stray cats. We also put out food for the birds, squirrels, and opossums in the neighborhood, and the occasional fox and raccoon also come to dine in our yard. If animals truly make you live longer, I figure we’ll live to be at least 150!

To read more about pets, click on the article links below.

Ahhh...nothing like a dog's love!
Ahhh...nothing like a dog's love!

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