Looking after a pet is always a rewarding experience, but did you know that as well as providing affection and companionship, your pet could be helping you to be a better person? Pets can help us in all sorts of ways – these are a few of them.

Making us healthier

There are obvious benefits to walking a dog – getting out of the house, getting fresh air and exercise – but just having a dog also decreases your risk of suffering from allergies and can help when you want to give up a bad habit such as smoking. Having a cat can help to keep your bones strong, as long as you hold it when it’s purring, because those vibrations have developed to help tiny fractures mend – important for an animal that spends a lot of its time jumping around.

Making us happier

It’s always fun spending time with a pet, and studies have shown that they really do make us happier overall, decreasing our risk of stress and depression. Part of the reason seems to be that they increase our empathy, causing us to find more joy in other people’s happiness and motivating us to make the world a happier place.

Bringing children out of their shell

Pets have a wonderful way of drawing out shy children and encouraging them to engage with the world. They can help kids on the autistic spectrum to communicate, and can act as reassuring companions to kids who are being bullied, raising their confidence levels. They can help with teaching children responsibility, though there should always be an adult ready to take over and look after the pet if the child isn’t coping.

Acting as helpers

Animals can help in a direct way in all sorts of situations by assisting people who are elderly, ill, or disabled. Some can perform practical tasks such as fetching items that are out of reach or working light switches, while others can warn their human companions of seizures that are about to happen. They can guide blind people, guard people who are prone to fainting, and help people with dementia to remain independent for longer, helping them find their way around.

Helping us learn to cope with loss

One of the other things that animals can do is help children come to terms with mortality and understand the emotional process of letting go of a loved one. A professional pet cremation and funeral service can make it easier to cope and can show how death is easier to deal with when we have rituals that bring us together. Pictures and videos of pets are good for remembering them, and can provide prompts for important family conversations.

Because animals see the world in different ways from us, they can help us to consider it from different perspectives, and can broaden our horizons. Living with them and learning from them is a wonderful way for us to develop our humanity and discover the ways that we can become better people.