My grandmother was always an animal lover. She usually had a dog and maybe a cat or two. She also rescued chickens that had fallen off the backs of trucks and broken a wing or a leg, and even took in an injured flying squirrel, which she kept in a cage in her bathroom during what seemed like my entire adolescence. As she got older, she seemed to favor stray cats, particularly those who wandered to her house in the woods because they’d heard she had good cat chow from their well-fed friends (and was a pushover for a furry face). At one point, the number of cats she’d adopted reached somewhere in the teens …. although she’d never tell us the exact number!
My grandmother lived independently—and very happily—to age 94. We now know that it’s not because of the oatmeal and blueberries she ate every day or even good genes. It’s 100% due to that collection of adoring kitties who depended on her!
Here are a few reasons why pets can lead to longer as well as healthier and happier lives:
- Get up and get out. As you age, you risk slipping into a sedentary lifestyle and social isolation. But a cat pawing at your face or a dog barking for a walk is great motivation to get up and engage with the world. And going anywhere with a cute fur-ball at your side is an instant icebreaker for meeting new friends.
- Motivation to move. My grandmother’s cats had her heaving 40-pound containers of kitty litter until her 80s, walking around her property to try and find kitties who hadn’t come home for dinner, and scooping kibble and litter many times a day. Having a dog, particularly in an apartment, makes you take at least short walks each day, which is a good workout for your muscles and your heart.
- Keep you company and calm. When there’s a dog or cat in the house, it’s hard to feel lonely. They’ll also listen to your problems and give you a soft belly to stroke to instantly relieve your stress.
- Inexpensive alarm system. Your dog may never hurt a fly, much less bite a burglar. However, when he or she barks at a noise outside, it can be one of the best deterrents to break-ins there is!
- Feel needed. When your kids flew the coop, you may have felt at loose ends … and then the grandkids and great-grandkids came along, but they only need you for your delicious homemade cookies and the occasional babysitting. A pet, on the other hand, needs your love every single day. And that’s a really wonderful feeling!
Share how your pet keeps you happy and healthy.