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There’s a good reason why those cute cat and dog memes on social media are so popular. Pets make you feel good. Unless you’re allergic, there’s nothing more comforting than having a cat curl up on your lap or your dog rush to greet you when you get home.

Besides being lovable, researchers are finding that there is good scientific evidence that having a pet is actively good for your brain health. Here are four ways pets benefit your brain.

1. Pets Are Great for Your Brain Chemistry

When you see your pet, your brain automatically releases the pleasure chemicals oxytocin and serotonin.

You are flooded with feel-good hormones and feel happy. Conversely, your cortisol levels drop. That’s the brain chemical associated with stress and anxiety.

2. Pets Help Your Mental Health

Being a pet owner can help if you suffer from depression and anxiety. As well as having a connection with a creature who offers unconditional love, having a pet gives you a reason to get out of bed, even if it’s just to empty the litter tray or walk the dog.

For many people with depression, a cat or dog can provide the closest connection and support in their lives.

3. Owning a Pet is Good for Your Heart Health

A number of studies have shown a correlation between pet ownership and a lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, heart attack, and stroke.

Researchers believe that it’s not just the physical activity associated with walking a dog, for example, that helps boost heart health. The benefits of stress relief and deep emotional connection with your dog or cat can be just as impactful.

4. Pets Improve Childhood Outcomes

Studies have shown that owning a pet in childhood has positive impacts on behavior, cognitive function, emotional and mental health, and even social development.

Animals help children who are having problems with self-esteem, loneliness, and social interaction.

Pets can be especially helpful for children with autism or Asperger’s syndrome, who often have problems with social connection and communication.

5. Pets Can Help Older People

Therapy dogs and cats are increasingly being used in nursing homes and other facilities caring for people with dementia.

Having access to a pet can help with some of the most distressing symptoms such as memory loss, anxiety, and behavioral problems. Even robot animals can help reduce the need for medication in older patients with dementia.

If you’ve wanted a pet, now you have even more reasons to get one. They improve quality of life and brain health!

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