Pets Give Us More than Friendship

Dating back to ancient times, there is evidence of people having pets.  While domesticating animals was initially for practical reasons, at some point we began to value the bond shared with the animals in our lives.  Today, more than 50% of homes have at least one pet, the most common being a cat or dog.  With over 2 million cat videos on YouTube garnering more than 25 billion views, there is little doubt of just how much people enjoy pets.  Beyond an uncontrollable urge to smile at an image of a cute animal, there are also health benefits to having a pet.

Besides the feelings of love you experience, living with a pet is good for your heart.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institute of Health (NIH) found that people with pets have lower blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels which can reduce the risk of a heart attack.   Research also indicates that if you’ve experienced a heart attack, having a cat or dog improves recovery rates because pets help reduce stress.  Pets are a source of unconditional love.  They never care if you’re having a bad hair day or look fat.  Caring for your pets give you a sense of purpose and boost your mood.  Interactions with pets increase the brain’s pleasure and calming producing hormones, serotonin and dopamine.  Animals don’t think about tomorrow and that attitude can rub off on you.

Studies have shown that an animal in the home can help lower anxiety for Alzheimer’s patients and ease feelings of burden experienced by caregivers.  By reading about an animal’s breed or how to provide proper care, pets can prompt learning which provides mental stimulation that is important as we age.   Older pet owners report how much happier they are after adding a pet to their life and found that the benefits outweighed any downsides to caring for the pet.  Many hospitals and nursing homes incorporate Animal-assisted Therapy (AAT) or Pet-facilitated Therapy (PFT) in their care because interaction with dogs and cats has proven so beneficial.

Pets can give you a reason to strike up a conversation with a stranger or provide common ground when meeting new people.  If you are looking to expand your social life, consider training classes, dog parks, outdoor cafes or online social sites targeted to pet owners as a way to make new friends.  Incorporate your dog into exercise such as walking or hiking.  It will be good for both of you and make it more fun.  Having pets is even viewed as favorable behavior by some insurance companies and included in their medical screening questionnaires.

If you already have a pet, you know how much joy they bring to your life.  When considering adoption, choose a pet that has a good temperament and is the right age for you, as a kitten or puppy will require extra care and energy.  Have the pet examined by a professional so you don’t compromise your health with a sick animal or adopt a pet that requires expensive care.  If adoption isn’t an option, check your community for organizations that offer pet therapy at specified locations so you can benefit from interacting with a well-trained cat or dog.  Some cities also have cat and dog cafes where patrons watch and play with the animals for a fee.  Studies even show that watching cute pet videos can produce the same calming effect and positive emotions as interacting with a live pet.  If nothing else watch some funny animal videos.  After all, laughter can sometimes be the best medicine!