Essay: Benefits of Owning a Pet
An Essay by Jeannine Moga, MSW, LGSW
Most people read and hear regularly about the importance of staying healthy and living longer through diet and exercise. While it’s definitely smart to follow that advice, you can do something else to help keep your mind and body in optimum condition. Connect with a critter — it goes a long way toward making you happy and healthy.
Studies have shown that forming a relationship with an animal can have important health and psychological benefits. Owning a pet or interacting regularly with animals can lower humans’ blood pressure, reduce anxiety and depression, and increase their social interaction. People who have dogs also tend to get more exercise from regular walks.
It doesn’t really matter what kind of pet you have, whether it’s a cat or a dog, a fish or a ferret, an iguana or a horse. What’s important is developing a relationship with an animal. Having a pet often provides people with a reason for enjoying life and connecting with others.
This can be especially critical for older adults, who sometimes get socially isolated or struggle with finding a sense of purpose. It commonly happens after seniors retire, their spouse dies, their children and grandchildren grow up, or their families move away.
Owning a pet serves as a wonderful way to rediscover a sense of purpose. It helps people feel needed and wanted. After all, most people can’t help but smile when their dog greets them with their tail wagging or their cat curls up cozily on their lap.
Providing for an animal’s needs by going to the pet store or taking a dog for a walk helps reduce seniors’ social isolation by encouraging them to get out into the world. They may meet new friends at a dog park or at the pet store when they go to buy more birdseed.
If a cat or dog is too expensive or needy, consider a more low-maintenance pet like a fish. Even these critters can provide mental and physical benefits. A study at Purdue University found that people with Alzheimer’s disease are calmer, focus better on eating, and digest their food more easily when they eat their meals in front of a fish tank.
However, before buying or adopting a pet, be sure to educate yourself about the animal’s specific needs for maintaining their health and wellness. You don’t want to take on more than you bargained for.
If you aren’t ready to commit to taking an animal into your home — it’s too expensive or too much of a commitment — there are other ways to benefit from the animal/human connection. Head into nature and look for birds or other wildlife. Another option is volunteering at an animal shelter or pet sitting for neighbors or family members who are going on vacation.
Animals are calming, accepting friends that offer unconditional love and kindness, as well as many health benefits. So think about bringing a pet into your life. You won’t regret it.
Jeannine Moga, MSW, LGSW, is director of the Social Work Program at the University of Minnesota’s Veterinary Medical Center. May 2007
There is no denying that pets are great companions for kids and adults alike. Besides, being mere companions, pets have shown increasing scientific evidences to prove that they are helpful in keeping their owners fit and healthy. Pets are believed to speed up recovery in patients with major illnesses. There are people who think that having pets at home makes kids and elders prone to allergies – but it has been scientifically proven that kids growing up with pets are at lesser risk of allergies and asthma. There are many other benefits of owning pets, read on to find out the top 10 benefits of having a pet at home.
10. Pets make great friends:
Pets – whether dogs, cats or farm animals – make great friends for everyone in the family because they are a great source of love and friendship. Pets are playful beings in the house as they keep everyone, young and old, happy in the house. It is believed that elders find great companions in pets, and kids who grow up with pets are less self-centered than the ones that have no pets at home. With pets at home, you always feel attached to your house, no matter where you are.
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9. Pets let you make new friends:
Having a pet like dogs at home, you are often compelled to go out for walks every morning and sometimes even in the evenings. Initially you may not like it, but over a few days you’ll begin to love the routine. Once you start going out on the street or in the parks with your pet, you’ll tend to meet many kinds of people. Dog owners frequently stop over to talk to each other on the streets or in the parks.
8. Pets boost your mood:
After a long day at work, it is relaxing o find a pet all excited by your side, licking and compelling you to play along when you return home. Researchers have shown that spending some time playing with the pet can relieve you of most of your tension and fatigue. Playing with the pet, especially dog, can increase the brain activity and enhance pleasure and tranquility. You can be rejuvenated after a stint of playing time with the pet and can have a better more relaxed mood and thus a better family life.
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7. Pets inculcate educational values:
Besides all the fun and happiness that pets bring into the house, they also bring along many educational benefits for both children and adults. Owning a pet allows you and your kids to understand how to love, be responsible and grow in trust with each other. Good feeding and exercising habits of you and your pet can inculcate that same habit of daily care in your child too. With pets, children also learn basic lessons on building a strong character like loyalty.
6. Pets help you remain fit and healthy:
Having a pet at home you are compelled to be on your toes at all times. No matter how lethargic you are in your daily life, you have to get up and walk your dog early in the morning, and sometimes in the evening. Pets make you more agile in the house, they expect you to play with them, be concerned for them. You have to make feeding and playing with pets a routine. All this not only keeps you in some kind of a daily routine but also helps you in keeping healthy and fit.
5. Pets help you exercise:
Exercise doesn’t always mean hitting the gym and pumping your body with heavy iron rods. Riding a horse, spending time chasing your cat or taking the dog out for long walks through the woods or in parks can also be great forms of exercising. Including any of the aforementioned exercise into your routine can make you fit and healthy. Venturing out exercising with pets also keeps you relaxed, thus improving on concentration and mood.
4. Pets help reduce anxiety and stress:
Pets have been recognized as best stress busters. Having a pet around, people are believed to be less prone to depression, anxiety and stress. Researchers suggest that people tend to show less stress and anxiety when they have pets with them than they show when they have spouse, family and friends around. Simply watching the aquarium with colorful fish floating can help some patients beat their stress levels. People tend to be happier and safer when they have pets to pamper and be pampered by.
3. Pets help lower blood pressure:
Being with the pet, patting him/her or simply seeing a pet, weather in the aquarium or in the kennel can help a patient relax. It is seen that even being with the pet can help most of the patients have a great relaxing effect, which helps lower the heart rate and blood pressure in them. People with pet have lower blood pressure and stress levels as compared to people without pets. Playing with pets can relive the patient of stress and anxiety and enhance the person’s mood and help stabilize blood pressure. It’s proven that hypertension or hypotension patient with pets have lesser visits to doctors.
2. Pets prevent strokes:
Pets, as we have learnt, are often associated with lots of health benefits. You may own a dog or you may have a cat at home, both the animals have lots of health benefits in store for you. It is scientifically believed that if you have a cat at home, you are about 30 percent less likely to have stroke or cardiovascular problems. Pets are also believed to help you recover faster from heart attacks and other such serious ailments. Pets keep you in a routine and playing with them or having them in the vicinity can help stimulate your mind, which makes you less prone to depressions and thoughts of pain associated with chronic disease.
1. Pets decrease the risk of allergies and asthma:
There has been an orthodox thinking that having a pet in the house leave kids and elders vulnerable to allergies and asthma, and if you have history of asthma or some allergy in the family then you must avoid pets. But a number of new researches suggest that children growing with furry pets – cats, dog and farm animals included – are less prone to allergies and asthma. Not only asthma and allergies, it’s also believed that having dogs makes people in the house less likely to have eczema. Pets, therefore, indirectly strengthen the immune system.
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