Furry friends with (health) benefits

A dog may be man’s best friend, but cats rule the Internet. The magic of social media and YouTube has created bona fide web-based stars: There’s the eternally disgruntled Grumpy Cat; Henri, the French existentialist; Little Bub, with his bulging eyes and stumpy legs; and Maru, the porcine fellow who never met a box too small to squeeze into.

Can owning a pet improve your health?

Whether you’re a cat person or a stand-by-your-dog loyalist, there is something you should know: Owning and loving a pet can make you a happier person. According to research, pets improve our lives by providing social support. One study showed that pet owners have greater self-esteem, are more conscientious, and are less fearful and preoccupied than those without pets. They’re also more socially outgoing and believe they receive as much support from their pets as they do from family members.1

In addition to improving your outlook, evidence shows that owning a pet can improve your health. According to WebMD:2

  • Your dog may decrease your chance of heart disease. That’s because dog owners take their pets for walks – and people who walk regularly have lower blood pressure than those who don’t.
  • Dog owners who’ve survived heart attacks and individuals with serious, abnormal heart rhythms live longer than people without pets who suffer from the same heart problems.
  • Petting your cat or dog feels makes your furry friend happy. It can also lower your blood pressure, help your body release a relaxation hormone and reduce levels of stress hormones.
  • Pets are people-magnets, so they can help you better connect with others.
  • People with pets visit the doctor less often for minor problems.
  • Babies raised in pet-friendly homes are less likely to have allergies and asthma. They may also have fewer colds and ear infections.

The power of the purr

Cats rule the Internet and have a paw up on pups for another reason: Call it “The Power of the Purr.” A University of Minnesota Stroke Center study found that cat owners are 40 percent less likely to have heart attacks than non-cat owners.

Is it due to the calming vibrations of purring? Some say yes. One possible explanation is the rhythm and volume of a purr’s vibrations. According to an article in Scientific American, “Cats purr with a consistent pattern and frequency between 25 and 150 hertz. Various investigators have shown that sound frequencies in this range can improve bone density and promote healing.”3

Is it time to add a pet to your health care plan?

You take many steps to protect your health, from exercise and eating right to ensuring you have financial protection in place. That includes major medical insurance as well as voluntary insurance, which helps pay not only co-payments and deductibles, but also the bills that continue to come due while you’re sick or hurt and unable to work.

Perhaps it’s time to add to your health care plan by opening your heart and home to the four-legged friend of your choice. You’ll be rewarded with love and adoration and, possibly, live a longer and better life.

Source:
APA PsycNET, “Friends with benefits: On the positive side of pet ownership,” accessed Feb. 7, 2014 - http://psycnet.apa.org/psycinfo/2011-13783-001/
WebMD, “Six ways pets can improve your health, accessed Feb. 7, 2014 - http://www.webmd.com/hypertension-high-blood-pressure/features/5-ways-pets-improve-your-health
Scientific American, “Why do cats purr?”, accessed Feb. 7, 2014 - http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-do-cats-purr/

This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a solicitation.

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