Having pets really is good for your well-being.

A new study of dog and cat owners over the age of 55 found that those who have an animal companion tend to be happier, more successful, and exercise more.

Experts say the seemingly minor physical aspects of pet ownership, from taking walks to cleaning up after them, can go a long way – and, these bonds boost the "feel good" chemicals in the brain.

The study commissioned by UK retirement home builder McCarthy & Stone surveyed 1,000 British dog and cat owners.


And, they found a number of trends among those with pets.

Pet owners reported nearly twice as much exercise as those without, at five times per week versus three.

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

Pet owners were also more likely to be married, have a child, and be happy with their job.

They even earned an average of almost $5,200 more per year than non-pet owners and volunteered for charities more frequently.

On the other hand, people without pets were more likely to have paid off their mortgage, with 69 per cent having done so compared to 60 per cent of pet owners.

They also retired sooner, at 46 per cent compared to 35.

The surveyed revealed that those with pets befitted greatly from talking to their pets, and 16 per cent even said that they wouldn't ever speak to anyone if it wasn't for their pet.


For many, this also did away with feelings of loneliness.

"The psychological and emotional benefits of pet ownership are well-known among mental health professionals," Sweet said.

"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."