Pets and other animals can boost health and well-being

When Percy Lee has a bad day, he hangs out with his chinchilla, Rin. “She’s like emotional support for me,” says the 14-year-old. Percy, who lives near Kansas City, Kansas, and is the author’s nephew, particularly enjoys snuggling with Rin and watching her explore. “When I get upset and overwhelmed, playing with her is one of my main coping mechanisms,” he says.

Percy isn’t alone. After a long day, lots of people enjoy unwinding with their pets. They might find comfort in cuddling a cute cat or petting a playful pup. Even spending time with non-snuggly animals, like turtles or fish, gives many people a boost.

Kerri Rodriguez studies the bonds between people and animals at the University of Arizona in Oro Valley. “One of the biggest benefits of having a pet is that they never judge you,” she says. “They don’t care if you said something silly, if you have a ketchup stain on your shirt or if your breath smells,” Rodriguez says. Often, pets are simply happy to see us. They make us feel loved.

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