Most pets owners will tell you that their pet brings joy and laughter into their lives, but what many people don’t realize is just how much owning a pet can do to help keep you physically and mentally healthy, improve your social life and the overall quality of your life.
Here are just a few ways that scientists have discovered that owning a pet can be beneficial to you throughout life:
How Pets Can Keep You Physically Healthier From Birth Through Old Age
Recent studies suggest that infants who are born into a home with a furred pet (dogs in one study, cats in another), are about ½ as likely to suffer from pet allergies as infants who are not. They are also less likely to suffer from eczema and they show higher levels of some immune system chemicals.
The one exception to this, is for infants born into homes where a parent is highly allergic to cats. In these homes, infants are 3 times more likely to also be allergic to cats than in homes where parents do not have this allergy.
Other studies show that men who own some type of pet tended to have lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. This study is backed up by two additional studies: one that showed that people who had survived a heart attack and owned a pet (again a dog in this study), had a higher survival rate a year later than those who did not own a pet. A twenty year study also showed that people who never owned a cat were 40% more likely to die of a heart attack than those who have been cat owners.
Some of the reasons for this may be that people who own a pet tend to get more exercise (dog owners) than those who do not and that those who own some kind of pet have an easier time managing their stress levels. In fact, studies have shown that just spending 15 minutes to a half an hour petting a animal, or watching a fish swim, can significantly lower stress levels and increase serotonin levels in adults.
Other studies show that owning and spending time with a pet can lower blood pressure levels in both adults and children.
Amazingly enough, many diabetics who own dogs have reported that their pets can sense and have actually warned them when their blood glucose levels suddenly rise or drop, even before the diabetic themselves has any physical symptoms of these changing sugar levels.
Scientists believe this is due to a change in diabetics “odour” when sugar levels drastically change. Whatever the reason, these warnings come in time for diabetics to have a quick snack that allows them to get their blood glucose levels back in order before things become serious or life threatening.
And of course, most people have heard stories of when a family pet has alerted a family to the danger of fire, defended them from a wild animal attack or an intruder, and kept a small child from wandering into traffic herding them away from danger.
But pets don’t simply help keep you physically healthier, they also do wonders for your mood and even your mental state.
Pets Provide Mental Health Benefits
Pets provide mental health benefits as well as keeping us physically healthier. Studies indicate that not only does having a pet in the home of an Alzheimer’s patient reduce the number and severity of anxiety outbursts in the patients themselves, but that the people who care for parents or grandparents with this condition, feel less stressed when there is a pet in the home.
Other studies show that children who have ADHD and own a pet, have higher self-esteem, due to the pets unconditional acceptance of the child, are better able to control their hyperactivity (in cases where they can run and play with pets such as dogs), and less anxiety than children who have this condition and do not have a pet.
Other studies show that having a pet, or at least having access to a pet on a regular basis, can help to ease minor depression, and help people who have had surgery or suffered an injury, heal faster. Some Psychologists even use animals in treating depression in certain cases.
Older people who own pets are less likely to give up on life than those who do not. Finding a reason to live and to continue having an interest in life because of the responsibility of caring for a pet, and due to the fact that a pet keeps them company, keeps them feeling less lonely. Pets also encourage older people to be more active as well.
Pets Keep Their Owners Involved With Others
Pets also keep their owners involved with other people around them. Dogs, cats, and even ferrets, that people take out for walks in the park, are great conversation starters, as other people are naturally curious about the breeds of pets, or are simply drawn to them. Many young, and not so young single guys, claim walking a dog or other pet works like a date magnet.
While some of these conversations never really get passed the “talking about pets” phase, others blossom into friendships that continue on sometimes for years. In either cases, these conversations keep shy people and those feeling lonely, connected to others, and helps them feel less lonely and more in tune with much of the world around them.
It really doesn’t seem to matter much whether that pet is a small hamster that lives in a cage in a bedroom, a fish swimming around in the aquarium in the family room, or that dog that shares your house and your travels, pets not only bring us an abundance of joy and laughter, but they keep us healthier, happier, and somehow feeling a little more human and humane.
Do you consider your pet to be one of the family? Do you find that your pet helps you get through the day? What do you like most about your pet?