What reduces stress levels, lowers blood pressure, reduces your risk of heart disease, and needs a good scratch on the head when you wake up in the morning?

Answer: your loveable dog. Or adorable cat. Or beloved guinea pig.

Studies show that having an animal in your home improves your overall sense of wellbeing. This isn’t shocking news for the 57% of us Americans pet owners (yours truly included! shout out to my 3 cats!!), but there’s actual “scientific” research to back this up.

According to the British Medical Journal, pet ownership is linked to health and wellbeing. Besides enjoying the unconditional love of our furry friends, they also get us off the couch. Walking your dog each day can help lead to weight loss and boost heart health. And exercising with your dog can also help you to socialize more, by getting you out of the house and having a chat with your neighbor or dog-run buddies. Pets can help prevent loneliness, too.

While some people are allergic to pets, it’s actually been proven that growing up with a pet in the home can reduce the risk of asthma and allergies in young children. And research also shows that kids who own pets are less absent from school due to sickness than those children who live without pets.

So the next time you’re taking Scruffy for his walk or brushing Princess’ hair, don’t forget to thank your doggy or kitty friend for everything they bring to your life (oh, and they told me they wouldn’t mind a couple of treats while you’re at it, either…).