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Thoughty Thursday: Health Benefits of Cats & Dogs

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kitten kissing woman

Kitten kisses are good for what ails ye! already knew that!

 Today 71.4 million households in the U.S. own at least one pet — that’s 62 percent of the U.S. population.  This “pet generation” has long known what science now proves — pets are good for our health, especially when it comes to stress reduction.

When stress accumulates, it increases a myriad of health problems. Stress can actually be physiologically measured because your mood is affected by hormones and chemicals released in response to stress. Here’s how it works.

Having a pet is a stress buffer and the closer the bond, the greater the relief. Within 15 to 30 minutes in the presence of a cat, dog or even swimming fish, your body responds. Levels of the hormone cortisol drops and the “feel good” chemical serotonin increases. Some doctors now actually recommend patients get a pet — a furry prescription! Read my AOL Healthy Living article to learn more about how your furry wonders benefit your health.


Watching puppies play and playing with them offers you BOTH great benefits.

But did you know that the stress relief works both ways? Yep, petting your puppy or kitty not only reduces your stress, it makes the pet healthier, too. You don’t even have to touch them for this pet effect to work. For instance, playing with your puppy is a powerful bonding tool that has many benefits. Check out all the puppy-licious details about why puppies play and some favorite puppy games just in time for the long holiday weekend!

I lost weight when Magical-Dawg came to live with us. He MAKES me get off my ass-ets and go for a walk, even when I’d rather vegetate with the laptop or Kindle. He also knows when I’m angst-ing, and insists on becoming a lap dog (all 85+ pounds of him!). Seren-kitty keeps my blood pressure low with her purrs and whisker-kisses. 

I’ve known colleagues who have pets that alerted them to health issues or that act as service or therapy animals. And during research for my natural healing pet book, I heard from many folks who had pets that became sick when they felt bad, and totally recovered when the owner’s emotional health improved.

How about you? How have your fur-kids helped your health–physically and/or emotionally? Please share in the comments!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions–and to stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!

About amyshojai

Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified animal behavior consultant (dogs/cats), award winning author of 30+ pet care titles and thrillers, and spokesperson to the pet industry.

11 responses »

  1. My Cookie’s health is apparently entirely dependent on my emotional health! My tortie cat is 19 and we have lived all these years of ups and downs as life tends to give us, but whenever I’ve been a little worried about her health my veterinarian reminds me I’ve had a stressful time lately and Cookie takes that in from me. I do my best to keep on an even keel so Cookie can enjoy her senior years.

  2. The semester I taught school, my stress level went out the roof. One of the main things that kept me sane was coming home to run with Magic, and pet the kitty. They both acted more stressed as a result of my angst, too–similar to your Cookie–that went beyond me being gone. We are not alone, but are all “connected” to our family’s well being (furry family and otherwise). I wouldn’t have it any other way!

  3. Of course, that’s why our dogs are therapy dogs! it benefits both patients and the nursing staff.

  4. Thanks for such an informative article…I had no idea just how powerful the health benefits of having animals merely around us could be! This is great news, especially for some people who are unable to care for a pet of their own!

  5. I have a kitty that can tell when I don’t feel 100% and he’s always the first to stand by me and love on me. I think it’s amazing how he knows….

  6. I’m blessed with all the animals I have and usually have one lying near by ready with a pur or lick to cheer me up!

  7. Thanks for all the comments, folks. Therapy dogs (and cats…and bunnies, etc) make such a positive difference in human lives, Dillon’s Mom. I suspect that you also get lots out of it. *s*

    Tiffany and Angela,I agree it’s amazing how intuitive our pets can be, and almost know in advance that we’ll need their support. Elaine, the whole subject is fascinating for me. And it IS very good news for everyone.

  8. My wife always said she was a cat person. After Mark died, and it became clear that Sam wasn’t handling being the only dog in the house at all well, she was the one who took the bull by the horns and went looking for another dog so that Sam would have a companion.

    And she totally fell in love with Rose. It’s been quite funny from my point of view. I’ve always liked dogs. For me, having a furry bolster wedged up against me in bed is a joy. Heather put up with Mark and Sam sleeping on the bed because that was what I wanted.

    Now she’s disappointed if she wakes up in the morning and Rose isn’t curled up with her.

    When we took the kids out to Doggy School I had to muffle a laugh when the introductions got to Heather and Rose, and she said, ‘I’m Heather, and this is Rose, and I’ve never had a dog before, and isn’t she the most beautiful and the smartest little girl you’ve ever seen?’

    Pets do wonders for our health. They really do. Since Rose came into Heather’s life, Heather has been a lot more bright and cheerful. Rose, who came from an abusive environment, has flourished. What was an extremely nervous dog is now a happy and mostly well behaved dog (just don’t leave her near accessible food – she will eat anything she can reach). And she’s getting better trained every day. She’s incredibly eager to please, and willing to learn.

    Her and Sam get along like a house on fire. Just keep them away from the human food.


    • Wayne, that’s way kewl! It’s funny how the folks who are most adament about being a “cat person” or “dog person” (or even a “not-a-pet-person”) become the most vocal fans when they find that one special pet that converts them to the furry way. *s* Great story, thanks for sharing.

  9. Pingback: Thoughty Thursday: Health Benefits of Cats & Dogs « Undercover Kitty

  10. Pingback: Can Owning a Pet Make You Healthier?

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