Our animal companions bring us friendship, comfort, unconditional love and a myriad of health benefits. Research shows that having a bond with an animal at home makes people more fit, less stressed and happier.

For example, studies have found that:

  • Having an animal companion, especially a dog, lowers your risk for heart disease and helps you live longer.

  • People with dogs are less likely to be depressed.

  • Your body releases calming and relaxing hormones when you play with a dog or hold a purring cat in your lap.

  • People who own a pet have lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

People over 65 who own a pet make 30 percent fewer visits to the doctor than seniors who do not have a pet. Many feel a sense of self-worth and optimism when they take care of a pet. If you live alone, pets also provide companionship, which helps prevent illness and can even help you live longer.

Having a dog can help you socialize with neighbors while out for walks or at the dog park. Walking a dog is good exercise, too. An indoor cat can be a better option for seniors with mobility issues who still want to share their home with an animal companion. If you are prepared to take on the responsibility of caring for a dog or cat, head to a shelter and find your new best friend for life.

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; HelpGuide.org; National Institutes of Health