Thanksgiving is one of those times of the year when people reflect on what they’re grateful for — family, health, friends, jobs and opportunities to spend time together. Many pet owners are also grateful for their fur-covered friends and family members who add so much to daily life. Whether it’s joyful greetings at the door or warm snuggles on cold nights, pet owners have plenty of reasons to be thankful for their canine and feline companions.
So, in keeping with the spirit of the season, here are nine reasons to be thankful for your pets:
1. Pets love unconditionally.
Dogs and cats don’t care what we look like, how much money we make, where we grew up or who we voted for. They accept us for who we are without any judgments or ultimatums. Our dogs won’t stop hanging out with us because they made a new best friend who’s cooler than we are or gives better treats.
Our cats, on the other hand, can be a bit standoffish if we come home from work smelling like “dog” too often. But they’re quick to forgive our petting the dog next door when we provide chin rubs and a warm lap in which to curl.
As long as we give our pets the attention and affection they need and deserve when we’re with them, there will be no limit to the love and affection they’ll return.
2. They make us smile and laugh.
There’s a reason why so many people spend hours watching silly cat and dog videos on YouTube and Facebook. It’s as if comedy has been encoded into their DNA! We double-dog dare you to spend an hour with your pet and not smile. It’s impossible — we’ve tried it — even when your pet is sleeping through that hour. And if your pet is wide awake, it’s hard not to smile or laugh out loud when your pet chases their tail, has a case of the zoomies or replies with a meow or bark when you talk to them.
3. Pets keep us grounded in the present moment.
Dogs and cats live in the here and now. They don’t dwell on what happened yesterday, and they don’t worry about what will happen tomorrow, next month or two years from now. That’s a lesson more of us humans need to learn.
4. They’re experts at cuddling and snuggling.
Okay, so you sometimes complain that your Labrador retriever has to sleep in the middle of the bed. Or you awaken to the cat draped across your head. But admit it: cuddling with your furry friend is one of the best perks of pet ownership. Not only does snuggling with our pets chase away the cold as the weather outside gets colder, but it comforts and relaxes us (and them).
5. Pets are great excuses.
“I need to get home to walk my dogs Rowan and Josie, who’ve been stuck inside all day.”
“Can I take a raincheck? Tigger needs his canned food and nightly medication.”
Come on, admit it. You’ve used your pet as an excuse to leave a party early or to avoid something else you’d rather not do — and for that, we thank them. For what it’s worth? Surveys show choosing to spend time with your pet instead of other people — including your partner — is more common than you think.
6. Pets help improve our physical and mental health.
Many studies have explored the relationship between pet ownership and heart disease. Although the results are mixed, they do suggest that pet owners often have lower blood pressure, experience smaller increases in heart rate and blood pressure under stress, and are more likely to be alive one year after a heart attack than people who don’t have pets. Now that’s something to be thankful for!
Dogs in particular are considered “heart healthy.” Dog owners are more likely to get the recommended amount of physical activity than those people who don’t have dogs — assuming, of course, that they do their own dog walking.
Even passive contact with pets can be beneficial. Petting a cat or watching fish in an aquarium can lead to lower blood pressure and slower heart rate.
Several studies also suggest pets help reduce depression, stress and loneliness. Pets also can provide a sense of purpose, responsibility and structure that can decrease anxiety for some people.
So eating an apple a day isn’t the only way to stay out of the doctor’s office. To learn more about all of the ways pets can benefit human health — the pet effect — and the research being done to document it, visit the Human-Animal Bond Research Institute’s website.
7. They give us purpose while teaching responsibility.
Some people might say that pets keep us busy. Like us, pets have basic needs for food, water, shelter and attention. They also need to be cleaned up after. While these tasks may seem to be busy work, in reality, caring for someone other than yourself provides an outlet for the nurturing instinct that we all have. Caring for a pet makes us feel needed, and that feels good.
8. Your pet listens (or at least pretends to listen).
When you’ve had a tough day at work and no one wants to hear about it, your pet will listen to every detail. Or at least they’ll look like they’re enthralled.
You also never have to say, “Don’t tell anyone!” When you share with your pet, you know that all the mistakes you made and all of your deepest, darkest secrets are safe within those soft, fuzzy ears. Best of all, there’s no judgment or advice on how to fix things. There’s just comfort.
9. Pets make us better people.
Learning happens during all sorts of experiences, at surprising times and in unexpected places. Caring for a pet provides us with many opportunities to learn and grow.
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