Science Says Taking Care Of A Pet Can Teach You These 4 Major Things About Life

To all the pets I've loved before: Thank you for loving me back unconditionally. I mean really, one of the things I appreciate most about pets is the way they're so quick to forgive, and so eager to show you all of the affection their little hearts can hold. If you have an animal baby in your life, you can probably relate, but you might not realize what your pet can teach you — you know, aside from how to pick up dog food without getting any of it on your skin.

Whenever I tell my dog he can't have scraps from my lunch, or accidentally step on my cat's paw, I can't help but feel so incredibly guilty. But after only a few minutes, Hank and Kit Kat are right back at my side, ready for all the snuggles I can give them. I've had various cats, dogs, hamsters, and even fish since I was 8 years old, and besides teaching me the responsibility of caring for the needs of another living being — and the fact that pets make the best hot water bottle substitutes — I've also gleaned more serious lessons from the animals I've grown up with. My cat has taught me to be in tune with the emotions and boundaries of others. My dog is a great example for striking up a balance between lounging on the couch and running outside to spend some extra energy.

At the end of the day, even though I'm technically the caretaker for my fur babies, they're the ones who have really taken care of me. Here's what they've taught me, and what your pets might teach you, over the years.

The Importance Of Physical Connection

There's nothing quite as soothing as gently scratching the top of a cat's head until he falls asleep. This kind of physical contact, it turns out, can actually have a pretty positive effect on your own mental state. In a joint study by two charitable organizations based in the UK — Cats Protection and the Mental Health Foundation — researchers looked at how caring for a cat affected their owner's depression by studying 600 cat- and non-cat-owning people. They found that 87 percent of cat owners said that their fur babies positively impact their mental health, and a third of respondents said that stroking their cat was a calming and helpful activity.

The Power Of A Good Stroll

A study published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health looked at the lifestyle habits of more than 40,000 adults to determine the relationship between being a pet parent and how much you engage in physical activity (specifically walking). Surprisingly enough, dog owners were found to be slightly less likely to walk for transportation than cat owners or pet-less folks, though the catch here is that dog owners appear to be more likely to walk for leisure compared to non-dog owners.

In other words, your pup really does seem to help teach you the value and benefits of regular physical activity, particularly when you don't actually have to be active.

How To Keep Calm Under Pressure

It's pretty rare for my dog or my cat to get stressed most of the time, unless I've just left for the day and they're feeling anxious without me. Just like my presence is comforting to my little ones, it turns out that having your pet around helps you reduce stress, too. In a study published in the medical journal Psychosomatic Medicine, pet owners and those without furry friends were asked to complete a math exercise within a given time limit. According to the study's results, the participants who had cats or dogs to go home to were less likely to have rising heart rates and blood pressure levels, and when their pets were brought into the room, they made fewer math errors than their counterparts without a pup or kitten.

How To Be A Good Leader

Ready to become the #girlboss you've always wanted to be? Give some extra love to your cute canine or your sweet cat because, according to an online survey of 857 Americans, conducted by Banfield Pet Hospital and Kelton Research, owning a pet could be a contributing factor to your professional success. The results of the survey, which were shared directly with Elite Daily via email, showed that 86 percent of pet owners say they have better time management and multitasking skills because of their fur babies.

Starting out with a pet at an early age seems to be part of the equation, at least according to professionals' perceptions. Ninety percent of executives in the survey responded that they felt children would be more successful in school if they cared for a pet.

Honestly, even without all the life benefits that your furry pal brings, having a companion that loves you unconditionally is the best gift ever. Also, the snuggles are unreal.