Health Benefits of Having a Pet

Pets, furry friends, extra siblings, whatever names we have for them, we as the human species are generally eager to open our homes to the cute and cuddly. Of course, for some, any new friends must be hairless, some even prefer the rare types like arachnids and insects, but hundreds of millions of people around the world can say they are pet-owners.

Researchers are still working on putting the timeline together, but humans have been keeping animals as pets for thousands of years. Lots of animals are domesticated but perhaps not seen as pets because of the work they do, for example, cows. But dogs are a good example of pets who sometimes have jobs, and dogs are the most popular pet, according to several studies online.

Canva In fact, a bio-archaeologist at Oxford named Greger Larson is studying dogs as domestic animals. He’s leading a major international project about them and has already uncovered some interesting data like a 32,000-year-old skull thought to be a dog’s ancestor, and ancient dog bones found right here in Colorado dating back 11,000 years.

Needless to say, there’s a lot of history behind owning a pet of any kind, and many people you know can probably attest to how much they love having one or two over the years. But are there any benefits outside of funny TikToks?

It turns out that there are significant health benefits, according to the CDC, which may help you get any reluctant humans in your household on board with bringing home a new friend.

One of the major complaints that people across the world have had with the COVID-19 pandemic and strict stay-at-home orders is being alone and bored. Studies have shown that having a pet leads to decreased feelings of loneliness and increased opportunities for socialization, exercise, and outdoor activities. Dog parks, for example, provide an outdoor and safely distanced hangout for their owners, and dogs love them too. Many animals can safely enjoy the outdoors, so invest in a leash, a backpack, or another mode of transportation for them, and bring your friend with you on your next walk, hike, or bike ride.

All this exercise is good for you but, in addition, having a pet in your life has also been linked to decreased blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. Even pets you might not expect to react to your routine and your moods like birds, fish, and reptiles will figure you out once you’ve bonded and they’ll give you extra love when you need it. Having someone around to talk to, even if they can only chirp or gurgle or hiss in response could really help you turn your day around when it gets dark early and you’ve been on Zoom calls for hours.

Speaking of Zoom, what meeting would be complete without a pet popping up on camera? While people all have unique experiences, I personally love sharing the screen with my feline companion, or when my professor brings her rabbit in to give part of a lecture. No doubt there will be a lot of conversation about pets + pandemic + perpetual Zoom meetings in future research. For now, take this advice to heart and visit a shelter near you, it will really liven up your home as we move toward the holiday season. Adoption is such a powerful way to help vulnerable animals and give back to your community, and YOU also reap the benefits! Not only in snuggles and Instagram-worthy photos but health benefits, too.

As a gentle reminder: let the wild stay wild and don’t bring in animals like raccoons and squirrels who belong in nature. We know President John Adams had a pet alligator given to him by the Marquis de Lafayette but, if Lin-Manuel Miranda didn’t put it in a song, you don’t need to try it at home.