5 best reasons to adopt a pet

Why should you add a dog to your family?Adopted pets have always been a central part of my life. Ever since I adopted my first kitten from a shelter when I was six years old, my life has largely revolved around loving, supporting, and, in many cases, owning adopted pets. I know my life wouldn't be the same if it weren't for the adopted animals that have nuzzled their way into my heart. I believe that almost all families and individuals can benefit from adopting a pet, and, of course, the pet benefits tremendously, as well. Here are just a few of the many reasons to adopt a pet.

1. Pets offer unparalleled companionship and loyalty. Over the course of my life, I've had falling-outs with friends, arguments with my fiance, catastrophic disagreements with my parents, and significant struggles with my daughter. While relationships with people can be tumultuous, a pet's love is deep and unconditional. By adopting a pet and treating it with love, you guarantee that-- even when times get hard-- you'll have someone who loves you no matter what.

2. Adopting a pet can improve your health. The Centers for Disease Control reports that people who own pets have lower blood pressure, lower triglyceride levels, and lower cholesterol levels than people who do not. Pets, especially dogs, can also provide their owners with opportunities for exercise and socialization, which can improve overall health and well-being. Just as you care for your pet, your pet has his own way of looking after you.

3. Pet owners are happier. The knowledge that you've saved a life by adopting a pet can dramatically improve your mental health. Pet owners tend to have healthier self-esteem and more confidence than their petless peers, and they are less likely to feel loneliness or depression. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry notes that pets can be very beneficial for the mental health of children who own or adopt them. As any pet owner can tell you, there is much joy in the bond felt between a pet and his master.

4. An adopted pet can strengthen a family. The shared responsibility of caring for our adopted cat, Ziggy, has dramatically improved the sense of unity, solidarity, and respect within my family. A pet can give all the members of the family a sense of shared responsibility, which enhances relationships between everyone in the household. My daughter has shown more respect for me since she became a "mommy" herself, and our family feels more complete because our cat is part of it. Your entire family unit can benefit from the adoption of an animal in need.

5. Adoption saves lives. The ASPCA states that a heartbreaking five out of ten dogs, and seven out of ten cats, will be euthanized because no one is present to adopt them. By adopting a pet, especially from a high-kill shelter, you can prevent an animal's death. The knowledge that your actions have saved a life will remain in your memory, and, to some degree, your pet's memory, for all the years you share with your pet. There are few greater gifts that you can give to yourself, or to the world, than the adoption of an animal in need.