Anyone who shares their home with a dog or cat knows that animal companionship enriches our lives on so many levels. Here are the top ways they do that.
Words can’t express the pure joy we experience when feeling a sloppy puppy kiss on our cheeks, or the soothing comfort of a cat’s purr against our hearts. Our canine and feline companions are our best friends, our families, healers, and trusted guides. We learn valuable lessons from them about unconditional love, living life to the fullest, and friendship of the most loyal kind imaginable. Our dogs and cats help us celebrate the happiest moments, console us during dark nights, and always know the right times to make us giggle with their silly antics. Here are the top ways dogs and cats change our lives for the better — physically, mentally and emotionally.
1. Physical Benefits
There’s no question that animals enhance our physical well-being. Keeping up a daily exercise routine with your dog helps you stay physically active, maintain a healthy body shape, and even recover more quickly from illness. Having a dog physically motivates you to push past your fitness limits.
If you have a cat, engaging her in interactive play gives you a bit of extra exercise inside the house. Whether you’re dragging a crinkle toy around the house, playing hide and seek with her, or throwing a catnip mouse for her to catch, it gets you both off the couch and moving around.
The physical benefits of sharing your life with a dog or cat go beyond physical activity. The mere presence of an animal companion can help you de-stress by lowering your heart rate, blood pressure, cholesterol and cortisol levels. A feline’s purr has even been shown to improve the healing of bones and muscles, and reduce the risk of heart attacks.
2. Mental Benefits
Dogs and cats also provide us with mental benefits. The activities you engage in with your dog or cat — such as training, enrichment exercises, agility and more — enhance your own cognitive state as well as your animal’s.
Even the act of caring for an animal — feeding, grooming, walking, and so forth — can have cognitive benefits, especially in children or the elderly. Looking after a dog or cat can give people a sense of purpose and responsibility, and help them maintain structure and routine in their lives.
3. Emotional Benefits
Being around a dog or cat increases one’s oxytocin levels, enhancing feelings of trust, empathy, and love, while decreasing anxiety and tension. Animals can also reduce depression and loneliness in humans; for example, walking a dog shows us how to look at the world through new eyes and can help establish social interactions with others.
Our animal companions also teach us about us unconditional love, gratitude, and living in the present. They love greeting us excitedly at the door, and express boundless loyalty to their people. The give us important lessons about enjoying each meal and activity, anticipating new adventures, remaining courageous and resilient, and expressing selflessness. They even help us understand loss — for with great love come great loss when we lose a dog or cat. Above all, dogs and cats share lessons on forgiveness and acceptance, even when they come from difficult or abusive backgrounds.
Animals change our lives in countless ways, on many levels, and give us love and joy every moment they are with us. The unforgettable bonds we form with them improve our lives physically, mentally, and emotionally, and leave permanent paw prints on our hearts. Anole France said it best: “Until one has loved an animal, a part of their soul remains unawakened.