LONDON — If you think pets are the pits, you may not be living to your potential. A new survey finds that people who own pets are happier, earn more money, and exercise more frequently than those who don’t.

In a poll of 1,000 British dog and cat owners over 55 and 1,000 people in the same age group who don’t have any pets, researchers calculated that pet owners were twice as likely to consider themselves a success. In fact, 9 in 10 owners agreed that their furry family members were good for their health and well-being. The belief makes sense: the survey showed that pet owners log nearly twice as much exercise, getting a good sweat about five times per week, versus just three time a week for the non-owners.

“The many benefits of pet ownership also include the cardio-vascular exercise of dog-walking, and even the light housework associated with feeding and clearing up after our beloved animals,” says psychologist and author Corinne Sweet in a release.

The survey, commissioned by McCarthy & Stone, a leading retirement housebuilder in the United Kingdom, might make you wonder more about the seemingly sadder lives of the non-owner group. That’s because the researchers claim pet owners surveyed were more likely to be married, have a child, hold a college degree, and work the “perfect job.”

But perhaps most shockingly, having a cat or dog is somehow linked to a higher salary. Pet-loving participants earned nearly $5,200 more per year than their counterparts.

And owners proved to be more philanthropic too, volunteering for charities more frequently than the other group.

But keeping your home free of animals isn’t all bad. The survey showed that more non-owners owned their homes and paid off their mortgages (69%) compared to pet owners (60%). An even better potential boast for these folks: 46% of the non-owners retired early, versus 35% of the owners.

Retiring ahead of schedule may seem heavenly to many, but 7 in 10 dog and cat owners simply feel more relaxed with their pet by their side. Half of the segment agree they never feel lonely, while 16% say their canine or feline friends brought out their social side — so much so that they say if it wasn’t for their pet, they wouldn’t ever speak to others.

Perhaps even more powerful: 31% of owners claim that having a pet gives them a purpose in life.

“The psychological and emotional benefits of pet ownership are well-known among mental health professionals,” says Sweet. “Having a close bond with a domestic animal can boost ‘feel good’ biochemicals such as endorphins and oxytocin; which can make owners feel more relaxed, calmer and happier at home. Owners may also talk to their furry friends and gain a friendly, comforting ear and warm welcome when they are feeling unwell, sad or lonely.”

Of course, these results may not be much of a surprise to anyone. Previous studies have found owning a dog boosts sex appeal and is even linked to a longer life.

The survey was conducted by the research firm OnePoll.

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