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We know we love our pets, but did you know they actually keep you healthy? Pets fulfill a variety of needs for their owners. Much like how social interaction is essential to good health, pets offer comfort and companionship that allows for stress reduction and help even an increase in self-esteem.

The most obvious benefit is the social interaction that we have with our pets. They fulfill the natural craving for emotional relationships. The desire to be loved is a powerful one and our animals fill it very well. A snuggle from a kitten or a wet kiss of a dog are equally as loving a hug from a friend or family member.

Stress reduction is another benefit to owning a pet. Petting an animal has been shown to reduce heart rate, blood pressure and even the arteriosclerotic process. Stress can also be alleviated when we talk to our pets. If we can get things off our chests by telling Spot, we often feel some relief, and animals will listen without judgement. Also, it is difficult to be angry or frustrated with something when you see your cat is being silly.

Animals that need to be walked every day will increase the amount of exercise one recieves. Your puppy doesn't care that you had an exhausting day at work. It's added motivation to get up and out when you have those big brown eyes looking at you. Certain animals have been shown to improve safety. Whether it is an intruder that they alert you to or if a cat wakes you when there is smoke in the house, many pets have saved there owners' lives.

Although it is impossible to measure, pets increase their owners sense of worth. Whenever we do something for another living thing that needs us, we feel better about ourselves. They meet our need to care for something or someone else.

One should not rush out and get a pet without thought and consideration. It must be taken in to account the conditions that the pet will be brought into. First, pets are not inexpensive to keep. Vet bills, food and equipment can be more expensive than many realize. Do you have the space for the animal to run around? Do you have the time and patience to exercise the animal? Do you have the discipline to train your new pet? Are you prepared for a few accidents on your carpet while they are being house-broken? These are just a few of things to consider. Discuss these items with people you know who have pets and ask them how they cope with these issues. If you can come to conclusions on these issues, you will be bringing the animal into a positive environment---for the both of you.