There have only been a few years in my life when I didn’t have a pet of some description and when I have had them they have provided me with purpose, loyalty, company, endless entertainment and comfort.
I’ve always known that having a pet is good for you but I wanted to explore this a bit more. On researching the subject of pets and health I found an abundance of information…it turns out that our pets do a lot more for us than just keep us company!
[Whilst this blog centres mostly around dogs (as this is where the majority of my experience lies), it applies to other pets as well (although probably not so much goldfish!).]
1. They get us out of the house and exercising…
Those of us who have dogs always have a reason to get off our behinds and leave the house for some good old fresh air and exercise! Even when the weather is not-so-desirable (and that happens a lot in this country!!) we still have to make the effort for our pooches. Whist it’s easy to avoid the gym when you can’t be bothered, that’s not an option when you have a dog who desperately needs to stretch its legs.
According to The Telegraph the average dog owner actually gets more exercise each week than a gym-goer.* That’s something to feel positive about when it’s pouring with rain outside and Fido still needs his walk! (the impending smell of Eau de Wet Dog is something to feel less positive about though!)
2. They get us socialising…
As I’ve discovered since adopting Maddy, having a dog can be great for your social life…all of a sudden you are welcomed into a new community of fellow “dog people”. People will come up to you in the street and ask if they can pet your pooch and you will regularly get chatting with fellow dog owners/walkers in the street, at the park or at the pet shop. I’ve found that people tend to approach you a lot more often when you have a dog!
You can also meet other dog/pet owners at training classes and even online…I speak from experience when I say there is A LOT of social media focussing on pets and animals and many communities to become part of. It can be great for someone who is shy and who may otherwise struggle to talk to new people…a pet can shift the focus away from them and make it much easier for them to relax and chat about their common ground with another person.
3. They are physically healing and soothing…
Pets have many physical benefits to humans from lowering blood pressure and cholesterol to reducing anxiety and depression. In addition, “playing with a dog or cat can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine, which calm and relax.”**
Studies have also shown that people recovering from heart attacks recover at a faster rate when they have a pet.
Having a pet in the house can also be beneficial for children…as Sarah Grace McCandless explains “…children exposed early on to animals tend to develop stronger immune systems overall.”***
In addition, studies have been conducted that show that stroking a pet, be it a dog, cat, rabbit or any other furry friend can have a sensory healing effect on us.
4. They are good for our emotional and mental wellbeing…
When you have a pet you always have someone to come home to. The companionship they provide can help ward off loneliness and depression and it has been suggested that this can add years to our lives.
Having a pet means being responsible for someone else which can focus attention away from life’s troubles. It also adds an element of structure to our daily routines which can be good for people who struggle with depression. In addition to this, just knowing that a pet relies on you can be comforting in itself.
As well as keeping us company, pets are great at listening! Some owners even talk through their problems with their pet just to have someone listening who won’t judge or answer back! Our old family dog Honey used to sense when I was upset and would try to comfort me by resting her chin on my lap.
As Helena Horton points out in her article “It's finally proven - scientists test whether cats or dogs love us more”, there is strong evidence to show that both cats and dogs feel love for their owners. “…Studies have shown that when owners interact with their dogs, the human and their dog appear to release oxytocin…one of the chemical measures of love in mammals.”****
Pets are also great at uniting families or partners…you can always rely on them to do something amusing in the midst of an argument and diffuse an otherwise tense moment. As Rhodes points out, “…even when family members are barely speaking, they at least share delight in watching the guinea pig in its cage.”***** I’ve found that it’s hard to stay annoyed when your puppy is bounding around like a mad thing chasing her tail!
So there you have it…pets are great for your health. There’s no excuse now not to get another furry friend!
* Anonymous, “Average dog owner 'gets more exercise than gym-goers’”: [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/lifestyle/wellbeing/diet/6666409/Average-dog-owner-gets-more-exercise-than-gym-goers.html]: Title
** Anonymous, :The Health Benefits of Dogs (and Cats) -How Caring for Pets can Help You Deal with Depression, Anxiety, and Stress”: [http://www.helpguide.org/articles/emotional-health/the-health-benefits-of-pets.htm]: para.2
*** mccandless, sarah grace : “Top 5 Health Benefits of Owning a Pet”: [http://www.animalplanet.com/pets/benefits-of-pets/]: para.2
**** Horton, Helena: “It's finally proven - scientists test whether cats or dogs love us more”: [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2016/03/12/its-finally-proven---scientists-test-whether-cats-or-dogs-love-u/]: paras. 6 & 7
***** Rhodes, Maura: “5 Ways Our Pets Make Us Happy”: [http://www.livehappy.com/relationships/animals/5-ways-our-pets-make-us-happy]: para.6