There is a joke in an old Garfield cartoon strip where Jon, the owner of the challenging cat, mentions that while people say having pets makes you live longer, in fact, it actually just seems longer.

Having said that, there are a lot of people who genuinely believe that owning pets is beneficial to one’s health. People who credit their pets with aiding them in recovery from illness, helping them through difficult times and making them feel better just by being around. It would appear that there may actually be a bit of science behind the anecdotes.

Here are just a few reasons why cats and dogs may, in fact, be more than just furry companions.

Taking care of yourself

Our pets rely on us. Even cats, who can often seem aloof and incurably independent, look to their owners for food and shelter. Knowing there is a living creature that would suffer without our regular care and intervention is a huge motivation to make sure we are able to live up to their expectations, and it is fair to say that they have some pretty high expectations! Simply having them around, therefore, can help us make the best decisions about our own lifestyles. So as you deflea the dog, make sure the cat comes in when it rains and buy them both the best quality food that money can buy, on some level you will almost certainly also be making sure that you too have a certain quality of life so you can continue to provide them with the same.

Get some exercise

Perhaps this is one is more relevant to dog owners than cat owners because owning a dog means getting out and about into the great outdoors, whatever the weather, at least a few times a day. There are certain breeds of dog who require some pretty special exercise as well, and their owners often find that big chunks of their weekends can be taken up with long walks in the country. This sort of gentle, and occasionally not so gentle, cardiovascular exercise is good for the heart, lungs and muscles. Plus, getting out into the fresh air and sunshine is good for the soul. True, it is not always in the sunshine but put it this way; there are very few more compelling reasons for exercise in the freezing rain than a dog who needs a walk.

Someone to talk to

It is not all about physical health either. Pets are companions whose very presence can have a hugely positive effect on your psychological wellbeing. They may not be able to talk back but they are great listeners, and it has been shown time and again that sitting down and stroking a dog or a cat can have a beneficial impact on things like high blood pressure and depression. Given this, perhaps it is not surprising that there are charities which specialise in arranging visits by dogs and cats to old peoples’ homes and hospitals.

So there you have it. Your four-legged friend whom you love so much may be paying you back in more ways than you, or indeed they, realise.

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