If you ask a pet parent what’s so great about cats or dogs, you’d better have some time on your hands. Most pet parents are eager to tell you all about the innumerable benefits of having a pet. Some are pretty obvious—they can instantly brighten your day when they greet you with kisses or purrs, push their head to yours, and jump into your lap for petting. But we’re going to go a step further than pointing out the well-known benefits of cats and dogs to prove that caring for an animal can actually help you be a better you.
Character-Enhancing Benefits of Having a Dog or a Cat
Staying Focused on Your Goals
Have you ever caught your cat staring intensely at the red dot that constantly eludes them, readying themselves to pounce on it? Do you remember the unwavering eye contact your dog made with the treat in your hand as he patiently waited for his reward? That’s the kind of pure focus that comes naturally to our pets, but we have to work for. If we can reach this level of concentration when it comes to completing tasks and reaching our own goals—no matter how small—we’ll be finishing our to-do lists before the ink dries.
Finding Your Inner Zen
Things like work, exercise and chores take up a significant portion of your day, and they’re all fruitful endeavors, but a little meditation and reflection can do a body (and mind) a lot of good. This is a time to relax, let go of distractions and let the stress melt away. Take a cue from the natural Zen masters on four legs. Watch your kitty the next time they dip into the catnip—after the frenzied free-for-all, they’ll be in a state of pure, blissful meditation. Cats are so Zen that they’ll spend 10 minutes simply staring at an empty wall in a meditative state. Or take note of your pup when they’re teeth-deep in a marrow bone—that’s a level of Zen we can only hope to reach.
Being More Present
If anyone is living in the moment, it’s our pets. It’s easy to become glued to a smartphone screen and tune out everything around you, but that means you’ll miss out on that great sunset or the adorable Pug strolling by. Our own furry friends are constantly showing us how to be more present and aware of our surroundings and to relish the moment—we’re just too busy to notice. They use their senses to the fullest, stopping to smell every scent and perking their ears up at certain sounds. The next time you go for a walk with your best friend, you don’t have to stop and smell the fire hydrants, but try to keep your phone in your pocket so you can fully enjoy this time together.
Getting the Sleep You Need
Napping can and should happen anytime, and it shouldn’t end until you’re fully rested. Cats know this. Dogs know this. But for some reason, most of us don’t seem to get the amount of sleep we need, and we probably don’t take the time to nap, either. You’ll never see your pets setting an alarm or skimping when it comes to snoozing. Getting the right amount of sleep can turn the whole day around—who knows, you may not even need that second cup of coffee!
Becoming More Patient
As much as we love our precious pets, there are plenty of times when they remind us that patience is a virtue. You’ve probably spent some time that you didn’t plan on spending cleaning up garbage that’s been pulled out of the trash or picking up all the things that have been “accidentally” pushed off the bedside table by curious paws. Just remember that every cleaned-up mess is a lesson to stay calm and collected in the face of unexpected mishaps. Cats certainly don’t spend their time crying over spilt milk.
Learning to Communicate Better
When was the last time you said exactly what you were thinking without running it through a faux pas filter in your mind first? Animals, on the other hand, aren’t afraid to send pretty clear signals to us and to the other members of their species. Cats have even learned how to speak in a way we’ll understand—they’ve definitely perfected the “I want food” meow. In fact, the only time they use it for other cats is when they are kittens crying to their mothers for food. And of course, dogs have all kinds of barks to convey different things. It doesn’t stop there—our pets leave all sorts of very clear scent messages for other dogs or cats—from “I was here” to “I own this block.” They’re constantly teaching us to speak our minds unapologetically.
Finding Joy in the Little Things
When you find something good, dogs know that you have to savor it—or even roll around in it when it’s really good. From tempting smells to the sound of their owner’s praise, it’s not hard for your pup to find tons of tiny moments of pure joy. For kitties, it might be a pinch of catnip on their favorite scratcher, or a 5-minute chin-scratching session that instantly boosts their mood. They remind us that it doesn’t take much to find a moment of happiness in our everyday routines.
Taking on Responsibility
Nothing prepares you for taking on responsibility like caring for pets. It’s one of the most lucrative benefits of having a pet. Making sure they don’t get into stuff they shouldn’t, taking them to the vet for checkups and when they’re sick, ordering all of their food and treats—all of these things give you major life skills and help you tap into your nurturing side.
Making Time for Self-Care
We spend plenty of time taking care of our fur babies, but they also remind us that it’s necessary to set aside plenty of time for self-care. Cats spend up to 50% of their day grooming meticulously because they know how important it is to keep their coat clean and to maintain their natural scent. And, as for dogs, pet parents don’t hesitate to take them to the groomers for a doggie spa day—so why not do the same for yourself? A little “me” time can go a long way in bringing out your best self.
The benefits of having a cat or dog are many—we’re sure you can think of plenty of other ways having a pet makes you the best you that you can be. They can teach us so many things—much more than we could ever imagine when we first welcome these little bundles of fur into our homes.
Nikki Naser, Pet Central Senior Editor
Instead of owning 30 cats, Nikki has an impressive collection of 30 cat-themed T-shirts, and just 4 pets—a ginger-haired senior cat, a senior Maine Coon, a middle-aged Choodle, and a young kitty who showed up one day on the back steps. A former Orlando resident, Nikki worked on several tourism publications before moving to South Beach. When she’s not stopping to take pics of community cats to post on Instagram, Nikki spends her time with the office pets at Chewy, writing for their Pet Central blog.