Did you do a double take on that headline? I did not make a spelling mistake – I really did mean to say paws, as in the feet on your beast, fur ball, snuggle bug or canine companion. October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month and I’m sure there’s another month for cat adoptions! I’ll keep this simple and say, Adopt a Shelter Pet. Why? Because, as a popular bumper sticker says (grammar corrected) “Who Saved Whom?” with a picture of a paw print. Don’t believe me? Would you take the word of the good folks at Harvard Medical School?

From their September 2015 edition of Cardiac Health comes this, “Pet ownership, especially having a dog, is probably associated with a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease. This does not mean that there is a clear cause and effect relationship between the two. But it does mean that pet ownership can be a reasonable part of an overall strategy to lower the risk of heart disease.”

What gives? Well, if you’ve ever owned a dog you know full well they require some degree of walking and attention, which in turn, likely takes you outside too. Even if you are lucky enough to have a fully fenced in yard chances are good you’re still out there, in nature, hanging out at the very least and my bet is doing some walking. Dogs like to walk. Even when our dogs were in the last months of their lives they were still eager to get outside and stretch their legs, take a stroll. Some folks walk their cats and while that might work for some I’m here to say it doesn’t really have the same quality; you’re not building up a sweat or going too far…unless your cat runs away and then you’re likely running fast and hoping for the best!

From Elizabeth Scott, MS and Stress Management Expert comes this quote, “Research shows that, unless you’re someone who really dislikes animals or is absolutely too busy to care for one properly, pets can provide excellent social support, stress relief and other health benefits—perhaps more than people!” The Harvard article says much the same thing but I thought you’d like another citation! Petting a dog or cat tends to lower our stress levels and in doing so reduces the negative consequences on our hearts which stress has no problem piling on. Other added benefit of a pet? Show them love and affection and they return it in spades.

Also from Harvard, “If you own a dog or are thinking about it, the potential benefits for your heart health are a nice plus. However, pets should not be adopted for the primary purpose of reducing heart disease risk. And definitely don’t add a dog to your life if you’re not ready or able to take care of one, including making sure it gets enough exercise.”

Don’t know that you take on the responsibility of a pet? Shelters are always looking for volunteer walkers and foster parents (if you have some time but can’t take on full time care of a pet) and it’s a good way to reap some of the benefits without the vet bills. If you’ve not owned a pet ever or in a long while please know that it is critical to factor in the cost of ownership since the yearly price tag could give you a heart attack if you’re not prepared! Personally I love shelter pets; they are randomly bred and as such their genetic background is likely stronger than those bred for particular traits. But that’s me. Ultimately a pet is both a big decision and one that gets to be as individualized as you!

Happy Adoption!