Last weekend I went to visit my parents…or so they thought. I love my parents, but there is nothing like walking through their door and having three lovable dogs run up to me with gleeful smiles on their faces. What is it about pets that brings us joy? Cutting edge research is starting to show that there are notable health benefits of interacting with our furry friends. 

Benefits of Interacting with Animals

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explain several health benefits of having a pet including decreased blood pressure, cholesterol, triglyceride levels, and decreased feelings of loneliness. In addition, pets increase opportunities for exercise, outdoor activities, and socialization. 

Benefits of Interacting with Animals for Students with Autism 

A recent study by the National Institutes of Health found that having pets in classrooms decreased stress levels of kids with autism (whose stress levels are typically higher than other kids in social situations). Not only did their stress levels decrease, but their engagement and interaction with other kids also increased, including more talking, laughing, and smiling.  

Kids talk to their pets as much as they talk to their siblings! 

Pets are an integral part of our lives, and for the first time, research is discovering how relationships with our pets compare to relationships with people. Another recent study by the National Institutes of Health found that children talk to their pets as much as they talk to their siblings. This is surprising, because pets don’t talk! Nonetheless, children talk to their pets, and even report being more satisfied with relationships with their pets than their siblings, in part because there is less conflict. 

Spend Time with Animals in Our Community

Having a pet can improve our health, but you do not need to have a pet to enjoy the benefits of interacting with animals! There are several opportunities in our community to volunteer. Jasper Ridge Farm in Portola Valley provides therapeutic horseback riding and animal interaction experiences for kids, adults, and military veterans with disabilities and illnesses. Jasper Ridge Farm is looking for volunteers to assist with programs and animal care. You can also volunteer for Pets in Need, a local, no-kill animal shelter in Redwood City and Palo Alto that can use a set of caring hands! Volunteer opportunities like these and more will soon be available on sequoiastrong.org, your free, personal resource guide for healthy living for all ages. 

Disclaimer: please consult your physician before engaging in activities that may impact your health.