Studies have shown that spending time interacting with animals yields emotional, physical and social benefits. When you interact with animals, the hormone, oxytocin, is released. Higher levels of oxytocin are associated with decreased stress, increased feelings of self-esteem, optimism and trust. Physically, spending time with pets has been linked to reduced risk of heart disease, lower stress levels, lower cholesterol levels, even lower blood pressure. The social benefits of being with animals are almost too many to list. Pet owners report feeling less lonely and isolated. Animals offer unconditional love, they listen without judgment and will listen as long as you need them to. Some people even consider their pet to be one of their most important tools in navigating grief.