Pet ownership runs far deeper than simply caring for a possession. Yes, the sheer responsibility of caring for a pet has notable benefits in and of itself. But, pets also become bona fide family members with which we establish genuine relationships—incomparable emotional bonds that can have extraordinarily positive physical and psychological impacts on humans.
Below, Paul Mann, Founder and CEO of FETCH! Pet Care, spotlights many of the well-proven therapeutic and health benefits of pets, as reported on www.HelpGuide.org:
- The average domestic pet, such as a dog, cat—even a goldfish—can provide many therapeutic and health benefits. Pets can ease loneliness, reduce stress, promote social interaction, encourage exercise and playfulness, and provide unconditional love and affection. Caring for a pet may even help you live longer.
- The American Heart Association has linked the ownership of pets, especially dogs, with a reduced risk for heart disease and greater longevity.
Studies have also found that:
- Pet owners are less likely to suffer from depression than those without pets.
- People with pets have lower blood pressure in stressful situations than those without pets.
- Playing with a pet can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine, which calm and relax.
- Pet owners have lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels (indicators of heart disease) than those without pets.
While people with dogs often experience the greatest health benefits, a pet doesn’t necessarily have to be a dog or a cat. Even watching fish in an aquarium can help reduce muscle tension and lower pulse rate.
For children, pets provide many emotional and physical benefits, including:
- Children who grow up with pets not only have less risk of allergies and asthma.
- Many also learn responsibility, compassion, and empathy from having pets.
- The mere presence of pets at home can help provide a sense of security in children. Having an ever-present dog or cat, for example, can help ease separation anxiety in children when mom and dad aren’t around.
- Studies have also shown that pets can help calm hyperactive or overly aggressive kids.
- Playing with a pet can even be a doorway to learning for a child. It can stimulate a child’s imagination and curiosity. The rewards of training a dog to perform a new trick, for example, can teach kids the importance of perseverance.
For older individuals, pets can play an important role in healthy aging by:
- Helping you find meaning and joy in life. As you age, you’ll lose things that previously occupied your time and gave your life purpose. You may retire from your career or your children may move far away. Caring for a pet can bring pleasure and help boost your morale and optimism. Taking care of an animal can also provide a sense of self-worth. Choosing to adopt an animal from a shelter, especially an older dog or cat, can add to the sense of fulfillment, knowing that you’ve provided a home to a pet that may otherwise have been euthanized.
- Staying connected. Maintaining a social network isn’t always easy as you grow older. Retirement, illness, death, and moves can take away close friends and family members. And making new friends can get harder. Dogs especially are a great way for seniors to spark up conversations and meet new people.
- Boosting vitality. You can overcome many of the physical challenges associated with aging by taking good care of yourself. Pets encourage playfulness, laughter, and exercise, which can help boost your immune system and increase your energy.
“With such a vast number of benefits associated with pet ownership, how wonderful it would be for every home in America to have a domestic animal to take care of and love…and to be loved by,” notes Mann. “While schedules can make it difficult for some to bear the responsibility of a pet, resources such as professional in-home pet walkers and sitters are available to ensure Fido and Felix not only receive food, water and outdoor time, but also love, affection and even physical fitness when the owner is away for extended periods. Such services make it feasible for individuals and families to own pets, and enjoy the copious physical and emotional benefits related thereto, when they otherwise could not.”
Authors Lawrence Robinson, Jeanne Segal, Ph.D.
Paul Mann is the Founder and CEO of Fetch! Pet Care—the nation’s largest and most trusted franchisor for professional pet sitting, dog walking, and pet fitness/exercise services—serving thousands of pets and pet parents throughout the United States from coast to coast. He may be reached online at: www.FetchPetCare.com.