The Health Benefits of Pets

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There are more than 20 million pets owned in the UK, with approximately half of all households owning an animal (excluding fish), however there are thought to be 500 million cats currently populating the World.

Today is International Cat Day so Health Shield takes a look at the benefits of owning a cat, and any other pet, on your health.

Research from all over the world has proven that owning an animal has a positive effect on your mental health and wellbeing as well as on your general health. This extends to recovery from illness too. Many people say dogs in particular are capable of picking up on their owner’s feelings of ill health, so it only seems fitting that they can help to make you feel better.

Cats are quite a low key choice of pet; they require little attention in comparison to dogs for example, but they both provide a list of health benefits if you are an owner:

  • Did you know that having a feline friend can reduce stress and anxiety? Being low maintenance pets, a simple petting session with your cat (or dog) can help you with stress and anxiety levels by distracting you from your worries. Petting your furry friend can also help reduce both yours and their blood pressure. Cutting the level of stress-related hormones in your blood stream is known to assist in protecting against heart disease by lowering your blood pressure and heart rate.
  • Reduces the risk of stroke. Owning a cat makes you less likely to have a stroke than any other pet owner. Having a cat around the house can cut your chances by anything up to a third.
  • Boosts immunity. It is known that, especially for young children, being around animals can reduce the chances of suffering with allergies and asthma. This includes dust, grass, ragweed and pet allergies.
  • You can reduce the risk of heart disease and heart attacks. According to studies, those without a cat are 30–40% more likely to suffer a heart attack. Research is now suggesting that pets can also have an effect on your recovery time if you have already suffering with heart problems. Patients who have returned home to a dog or a cat have shown better recovery rates than those without animals due to their ability to help reduce and/or control their owners’ stress levels.
  • Owning a cat can reduce the levels of triglyceride and cholesterol which lead to heart disease and are symptomatic of type 2 diabetes on top of strokes, liver and kidney disease.
  • Having a pet means you spend more time outside and soak up your vitamin D. This helps you to fight off a number of physical and mental conditions including depression, cancer and obesity. On top of that, if you’re in a particularly quiet or rural area, the sounds of nature can be particularly calming.
  • Many will admit they like a good conversation with their pet, and it is a good thing! Whatever is troubling you, there is no better person to open up to than your cat, dog or whichever pet you choose. There is no fear of judgement or backlash, and clearing your chest can help with the stress of the problem.
  • They offer companionship. If you are feeling down, suffering with depression, or even ADHD having a pet at home is hugely beneficial to you. They can give you a sense of purpose and combat any ill feelings you might have. They can teach you to create a schedule and get yourself up and moving, building self-confidence and it means you have to go out to socialise and exercise.
  • It is thought also that if a pet owner is suffering with Alzheimer’s, having a pet means they have fewer outbursts of anxiety.

You may find that there are many more benefits to owning a pet than you originally thought, it is not just an additional furry member of the family, they can seriously help your general health and wellbeing in various ways too. So head home, provide your cat or dog with a little extra love tonight for how they have helped you, or may help you, in times of need.

If you do find that you are struggling with stress, anxiety or depression and are a member of a Health Shield Health Cash Plan please check your plan as you may be entitled to counselling sessions to help you on your road to recovery.