Thankful for Pets: Reasons to Celebrate our Furry Friends

from VPI Pet Insurance

Anyone who has ever owned an animal knows how much love and joy they bring to our lives. From greeting us at the door when we get home to keeping us warm at night, we have plenty of reasons to be thankful for their very presence. Here are a few of those reasons:

Pets Love Us Unconditionally
Animals do not discriminate against age, race, sex, weight or physical ability; they accept us for who we are. It does not matter if our makeup is not done, if we missed our sales goal at the office this week, or if we did not make the three-pointer on the basketball court—as long as we are there to give our pets the affection they need and deserve at the end of the day, there is no limit to the amount of love and affection they will return.

They Make Us Laugh
Melissa Warren, a graduate student at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, says she is grateful for her dog Oscar’s ability to make her laugh. “He sometimes runs around in circles like a maniac for no apparent reason,” she says.

Many pet owners have similar entertaining stories of dogs that run laps around furniture with new-found bursts of energy, cats that chase the ever-elusive shadow mouse or leap up walls just for the sake of jumping.

They Make Great Companions
Any pet owner will tell you animals truly are man’s best friend. Erin Douglas, an art director in Irvine, Calif., owns two West Highland terriers, PigPen and Lily, and says her dogs sense when she is sick or upset. “When I cry, my dogs know I’m sad and will actually lick my tears and sit with me until they know I’m better,” she says. “If I’m sick, they always curl up next to me and keep me warm all day.”

Jeff Thompson, of Marshalltown, Iowa, has owned pets all his life, and says just seeing his dog at the end of the day makes him happy. “The adoring look I receive when I get home from work reminds me that I’m loved when it is so easy to forget.”

Pets Help Teach Us Responsibility
Pets, like humans, have basic needs of food, water and shelter. They need to be cleaned up after and they are demanding of attention.

Children often benefit from taking on the responsibility of caring for and training a pet.  Pets help teach children the importance of treating a pet humanely and becoming responsible for their overall well-being, such as identifying their pets with collars, identification tags, and the importance of annual veterinarian check-ups.

Pets Have Positive Therapeutic Effects
Studies show that animal-assisted therapies such as visitation programs for nursing home residents can help decrease anxiety and help overcome loneliness and depression.

Christina Miller, a former convalescent home activities director in Southport, N.C., says she witnessed the positive impact animals had on elderly patients when a local animal shelter made weekly visits to her facility. “Residents who normally weren’t active were suddenly getting up, petting and talking to the cats and dogs, smiling and interacting,” she says. “Patients would ask me, ‘Are the dogs here? Did they come yet?’ Half the patients had better reactions to the dogs and cats than they did to people.”

Pets Help Us Exercise
Whether going for a walk or jog, or throwing a ball or Frisbee to Fido, people who have pets often have better health since pets can increase opportunities for exercise and outdoor activities. Walking is one of the best health activities you can do, and because it is good for overall health, owning a pet can be credited with helping to improve our well-being. In fact, the
Centers for Disease Control lists decreased blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels as additional health benefits of owning pets.

Walking and being outside with pets also increases the likelihood of socializing with others, since pets act as great ice-breakers and make us more approachable.

Pets Are Good For Our Hearts
There is evidence to suggest pets contribute to overall cardiovascular health. According to a report of the American Heart Attack Survey, within a year of surviving a coronary event (heart attack, stroke, etc.), there was more of a chance for long-term survival in pet owners versus non-pet owners.

The National Institutes of Health also suggests that owning a pet promotes greater psychosocial stability to pet owners, helping to protect people from heart disease similar to other tried-and-true therapies such as stress-management, relaxation and meditation.

Of course, there are many more reasons to be thankful for our furry friends. What are yours?