Up to 40,000 years ago, an important evolutionary shift occurred — dogs stopped being foes and began being friends. They began lurking around the outskirts of human settlements, waiting for scraps (and ear scratches.)
Perhaps 20,000 years ago, dogs started to travel with humans as companions, helping to hunt, herd, keep watch, and (presumably) snuggle.
Conversely, cats sort of… domesticated themselves (in a very feline way.) Perhaps 12,000 years ago, a specific cat species had a genetic mutation which encouraged them not to fear humans. (Plus, they’re born pest hunters.)
So if you think about it…
For tens of thousands of years, we as a race have continuously decided we’d rather live with our canine and feline pals than without them.
At times, it’s been a survivalistic choice — this cat will kill the mice, and this dog can smell the hares we’re hunting.
Other times, it’s been to protect our homes as guard dogs, or be otherwise helpful to humans. (Did you know that certain dog breeds can sniff out human diseases?)
Also, we have to assume they were so cute humans fell in love with them back then, just like we do today.
Since humans, cats, and dogs have been together for so long, extensive studies have been done on how we actually benefit each other’s health.
Turns out — having a pet is GOOD for you!
Let’s look at the top six health benefits in having a dog or a cat.
Benefit #1: Lower blood pressure
According to the CDC, there are a myriad of benefits in extending your human family to dogs and cats.
For example, people with pets tend to have lower blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and triglyceride levels.
Mostly, this has to do with increased exercise from exposure to rowdy pets, and decreased loneliness (just petting a cat or a dog can lower blood pressure.)
Benefit #2: better germ rolodex
Most of us know by now that over disinfecting our surroundings leads to a weakened immune system.
Yes, germs are bad, but if your immune system never meets a germ, it won’t know how to fight it, and it won’t get any stronger.
Having dogs and cats in the house, who are just lousy with germs, diversifies the bacterial environment and introduces humans to new germs all the time. Thus, you tend to get sick less often. Amazing!
Benefit #3: brighter mood
Dog and cat owners are less likely to suffer from debilitating depression than non-pet owners.
Being responsible for an active creature strutting about your home makes you a little bit more active in turn, both in a physical way and an emotional way. After all, cats and dogs do tend to tug on your heartstrings. (Studies have shown that even looking at your dog or cat releases the cuddle hormone, oxytocin).
Having a pet also establishes a routine in your life and keeps you from descending into a spiralling when things aren’t going well.
Benefit #4: happier children
Pets, especially dogs, help acclimate children to empathy, which I think everyone can agree is a prerequisite when you’re trying to raise caring adults.
Growing up with a pet, according to one 2017 study, makes children more compassionate and better equipped to regulate their emotions.
One reason for this might be that dogs can sense and respond to unarticulated feelings in children by their behavior in a way adults aren’t always able to.
Benefit #5: helping the environment
In some cases, certain pets are better for the environment! For example, cats have a smaller carbon footprint than dogs.
Cats eat less than dogs and also eat more fish than corn or beef products.
Think about it this way: the average dog has the same carbon footprint as a Land Cruiser over the course of its life. A cat? The carbon footprint of a small hatchback.
Benefit #6: enhanced attractiveness
Both cat and dog owners have more fulfilling social lives, and are more likely to find a long-term romantic partner.
One poll showed that 82% of women are more attracted to men with pets, and yet another showed that men are three times as likely to get a girl’s number if they’re walking a dog!
It’s clear that cats and dogs bring us together.
Loads more benefits include:
- Lower risk for allergies
- Lower risk for premature death
- Better quality sleep
- Reduced stress (due to feeling attached to your pet)…
And many more benefits science has yet to uncover!
It’s pretty clear, though, that not only can cats and dogs be practical additions to our lives in the human world…
They help us medically, emotionally, physically, and socially!