For years now, we’ve been reading in the news about studies touting the health benefits of pet ownership. Dogs and cats, in particular, have been touted as blood-pressure meds, Alzheimer’s soothers, antidepressants, and even as a defense against the #1 killer of American women, heart disease. Maybe soon we’ll learn they’re walking Botox and can clear up acne!
Wouldn’t you know it, though? The scientific community recently started second-guessing their own claims. Were they were really telling us true about our pets? Of course, it all seemed right. Some studies showed it to be right. But much of the research was later shown to be flawed or not terribly compelling. That’s why four years ago, the National Institutes of Health launched the mother of all studies on the subject. They’re out to prove once and for all whether and how pets make us healthier.
Are you waiting with bated breath to hear what they say? I’m not. I’m sure it will be a fascinating read when the research is out, and I know we in the medical community will put it to good use. But in the meantime, I don’t need scientists to connect the dots between a daily walk is good for a person’s health and dogs require daily walking. And I really don’t think any of us need a study to prove that having pets make us feel good and be happy—two things whose health and beauty benefits are, in my field, pretty obvious. (Think frown lines, one of the many reasons people come in for filler injections.)
I simply know this to be true: We are a society that wildly loves our pets. I’ve even read that just two percent of American pet-owners consider their pets to be property rather than companions. Loving and being loved give us fulfilled feelings. So does cuddling with something warm, fuzzy, and alive. Fulfilled feelings are good for you. Obviously. A pet that requires exercise boosts your exercise quotient, which keeps you youthful. And it doesn’t take a doctor to tell you that sitting with a purring cat on your lap better for your mood than sitting with a houseplant there. Scientists may chalk it up to endorphin-surges. I say who cares what it’s called? Just keep enjoying the love, cuddles, and exercise your pets afford you. That’s a trifecta that can only do our body good.