GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — On April 11, we celebrate National Pet Day and all the love our animal companions give us. As it turns out, not only can pets steal our hearts but they also contribute to overall cardiovascular health by lowering levels of cortisol, cholesterol and blood sugar.

National Pet Day was started back in 2006 by animal welfare advocate Colleen Paige. She wanted to bring attention to the many ongoing needs of pets of all kinds waiting in shelters to be adopted. “Don’t shop! Adopt!” has become the holiday’s motto.

And while Colleen’s holiday started in the U.S., it’s now celebrated internationally by the U.K., Ireland, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, Isreal, Spain, Guam, Scotland and many more.

Did you know that the dog collar is believed to have been invented in Mesopotamia, based on a wall painting depicting a man with a collared dog on a leash, estimated around 3500 B.C.

Domesticated cats were first introduced to Europe in 900 B.C. by Phoenician traders.

In ancient Egypt when a family cat died, the family shaved their eyebrows and they shaved the rest of their bodies for a dog. Cats were prized and protected in ancient Egypt, with death being the penalty for killing a cat, even by accident.

The Egyptians were also inconsistent with pet names, with dogs being named, but cats not so commonly. In 525 B.C., refusing to offend their goddess by fighting, the Egyptian army surrendered to the Persians, who had painted the image of the Egyptian cat deity, Bastet, on their shields. According to scholars, the Egyptians also had baboons, monkeys, fish, gazelles, birds (especially falcons), lions, mongooses and hippos as pets.

In 1866, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was founded in New York, after founder Henry Bergh witnessed a carriage driver in Russia beating a fallen horse years prior. According to 2019 data from the ASPCA, 6.3 million animals enter animal shelters every year. Approximately 920,000 shelter animals are euthanized each year. An estimated 4.1 million shelter animals are adopted each year.

The ASPCA also estimates 78 million dogs and 85.8 million cats are owned in the U.S. Approximately 44% of all American households have a dog, and 35% have a cat.

National Today surveyed 1,000 Americans about their pets, here are the results: