physical benefits of owning a dog include improved fitness

6 Physical Benefits of Owning a Dog or Cat


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Many of us are aware of the mental and emotional benefits of pet ownership. We know they give us purpose, show us the meaning of unconditional love and guide us to be our better selves. Now, however, evidence is showing there are physical benefits of owning a dog or cat too – plenty in fact!

From staving off heart disease to reducing cholesterol and helping us sleep better, our pets may just be better than an apple a day. And with recent pandemic pressure easing off (for now anyways) we’ve all felt the unconditional love of having our pawsome pal by our side through lockdown and beyond.

Now let’s discover what physical benefits of owning a dog and/or cat exist too.

6 physical benefits of owning a dog or cat

Recent research is uncovering the invaluable impact pets have on our lives. They’re our friends, our family members, our moral support and more. Some breeds are renowned for being assistance and guide dogs in NZ. ‘Pseudo doctor’ may just be the latest addition to this ever expanding list of pet benefits.

Scientific findings show these six physical benefits of owning a dog or cat:

  1. Lower cholesterol levels
  2. Lower blood pressure
  3. Reduce triglycerides
  4. Reduce cortisol
  5. Improve oxytocin
  6. Improved fitness

Because the emotional benefits of pet ownership have long been known, the next natural step was for science to look at how these impact us at a biological level. And unsurprisingly, it’s all good things. Here’s a closer look at each of these physical benefits of owning a dog or cat.

pet owner experiences the physical benefits of owning a cat

1. Pets lower your cholesterol levels

A Harvard medical school article indicates dog owners have lower cholesterol levels than non-owners, however, how exactly this happens is unclear. As for cat lovers, Psychology Today shares research statistics that suggest owning a cat can lower your cholesterol-related risk of heart disease and heart attack as effectively as medication.

We’re all for keeping the medication, plus pets.

2. Pets lower your blood pressure

Whether we’re talking about companion animals, therapy animals or assistance animals, there’s no denying that animals can help keep us calm, particularly in times of stress. 

Studies show pets help us to stay focused and ‘present’, which reduces levels of anxiety. This helps regulate our mood and heart rate and keeps our blood pressure well balanced.

3. Pets lower triglycerides

We’ve all heard about cholesterol, but what about triglycerides. Cholesterol and triglycerides are both lipids that circulate in the blood and each carries out a different function. In healthy quantities, triglycerides store calories and release energy while cholesterol is partly responsible for developing cells and hormone production.

On the other hand, too much of a good thing is bad and overproduction of triglycerides can lead to hardened arteries. This puts a person at risk of having a stroke or heart attack and of developing disease or inflammation of the pancreas.

All this sounds terrible, but research shows pet parents have lower triglycerides – pile on the physical benefits! Kiwi pet owners are bound to agree with this. You probably already sensed that every time your dog gazes at you affectionately, or your cat’s purr resonates through your heart you feel great. Which apparently results in reduced biological stress reactions. Woof! Meow!

pet owners experience mental and physical benefits of owning a dog or cat

4. Pets lower cortisol levels

Cortisol is the nasty stress hormone. Sure it helps us make quick decisions in a pinch, but it also gives us breakouts, keeps us awake at night and leads to an added kilo or two. Of course, cortisol is not the problem in and of itself; it’s the hormone we produce when something freaks us out.

As luck would have it, the calming effect our pet’s presence has on us actually lowers cortisol levels. Even non-pet owners can get the benefits of reduced cortisol simply by interacting with pets. It’s no wonder therapy animals are used to help improve people’s lives. Not to mention our very own furkid right by our side.

5. Cats and dogs improve oxytocin levels

Oxytocin is to cortisol what chalk is to cheese. In other words, it’s our happy hormone. We release oxytocin when we’re happy, healthy, in love, and when we bond with our pets. That’s right, bonding with your pet causes a release of oxytocin!

Who would want to be without the physical benefits of this awesome biochemical reaction caused by pets? Certainly not us. The health benefits of sleeping with your cat and sleeping with your dog far outweigh the fur and smells they leave behind!

man experiences physical benefits of improved oxytocin levels from owning a dog

6. Pets improve our fitness

Pets help get us out of bed each day and keep us active. From playing ball with our Maine Coon cat to beach trips with our lovely Labrador, the physical benefits of staying fit are that much easier with pets. They’re our cheerleaders and our best buds and unlike many human friends that are tired or glued to their screens, pets are always game to get some fresh air.

A good way to go about choosing a pet is planning how they would fit into your exercise schedule. If you’re always stuck at home behind your laptop, a Pug is a great choice of lapdog. Or if you’re someone who can pull off a daily run, the Border Collie could be your ideal best bud.

Pet insurance gives your pet physical benefits

There are so many mental, emotional and physical benefits to pet ownership that you can give back to pets in the form of a simple, quality pet insurance plan. Not only will you be safeguarding their health with a plan to helps cover medical costs that arise, but you’ll also be giving yourself peace of mind.

It’s no secret that pets know when we’re stressed and when we’re calm, and your peace of mind is sure to rub off on them. Time to take 2 minutes to get a quote and find out how affordable pet insurance is?

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