What are the astonishing ways pets help us?

I read something once that said: "Pets leave paw prints on your heart." Ask any loving pet owner how they feel about their treasured animal and the responses all sound about the same. They love their pets and couldn't imagine life without them. For some, the special role that an animal plays in their life can mean the difference between happiness and loneliness.

Humans can benefit from pets in much the same way they do from their friends. According to an article in Time magazine (1), a growing literature in psychology has already shown that among the elderly or the very ill, caring for a pet can help stave off loneliness and even improve physical health. But the study wanted to take this a step further and see if the same benefits applied to people who aren't isolated or lonely. What the researchers found out was that people can derive joy and meaning from their pets even when they already have other friends and family to care about them.

According to helpguide.org, "dogs in particular can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, ease loneliness, encourage exercise and playfulness, and even improve your cardiovascular health." So why is it that these feline friends and four-legged pooches give us such a good outlook on life and help with our mental and physical health?

Read on for 5 ways pets really help us.

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