Don’t let anyone underestimate that furry friend of yours. Your bond with your dog or cat may be the simplest relationship in your life, but it’s kind of amazing how many facets it has.

They’re your therapist.

No one’s a better listener, and you can’t beat an hourly rate of a couple treats and belly rubs. Pets are actually known to relieve stress with just their comforting presence, which is why you often find therapy animals at nursing homes and hospitals.

They’re your mindfulness guru.

While they might be a huge distraction during yoga, dogs and cats are masters at teaching people to get into a more meditative state. In fact, pets are so effective for helping anxious people focus on the present and be in the moment that doctors prescribe grooming and petting animals as grounding exercises.

They’re your personal trainer.

From nosing you out of bed to pushing you to go further on walks, pets know how to motivate. And thanks to their structured routine, you’ll likely enjoy benefits like improved cardiovascular health and a healthier weight.

They’re your comic relief.

It’s really hard to be depressed when your dog wakes himself up with his own snoring or your cat tries to fight the vacuum cleaner. By not taking themselves seriously, pets give us permission to have fun too.

They’re your conscience.

If everyone tried to be the person their pet thinks they are, it would be a better world. They bring out your best by helping you be more forgiving of everything, from poop accidents on the floor to toilet paper unfurled all over the bathroom. And, according to one study, learning to regulate our emotions around pets might even help us extend the same courtesy to other people. 

They’re your responsibility.

For many of us, having a pet is the first time we learn what it means to take care of someone. For kids, it’s a chance to help their parents by staying on top of chores like feeding and walks. And for many adults, pets are the first baby they’ll parent before they expand their family to human kiddos.

They’re your best friend.

Sure, it’s the aspect we all take for granted, but what a friendship it is. Pets are so in tune to your emotions that one study shows they even start to take on your traits and become more like you. How many of your human friends do that?

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