Up to 40,000 years ago, an important evolutionary shift occurred…
Dogs stopped being foes and started being friends. They began lurking around the outskirts of human settlements, waiting for scraps (and ear scratches.)
Perhaps 20,000 years ago, dogs were traveling 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 experienced a genetic mutation that 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 survivalist 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 of having a dog or a cat.
According to the CDC, there are myriad 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.)
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.
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 spiraling when things aren’t going well.
Pets, especially dogs, help acclimate children to empathy, which 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.
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.
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.
There are many more benefits to caring for hairy little pals. Here are just a few:
- Lower risk for allergies
- Lower risk for premature death
- Better quality sleep
- Reduced stress (due to feeling attached to your pet)…
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!
(If you feel like you could stand to learn more about how to care for your favorite quadrupeds, my wife and I designed this course for that specific purpose!)