Having a pet can be a lot of responsibility. They’re little beings that need love, shelter, food and care. It may seem like a lot of work, but what pets give back to you can be exponential.
It doesn’t matter which type of pet you fancy, either. Dog, cat, guinea pig, mouse, fish or snake. We connect with them on a level close to that with other humans.
Studies have been circulating for years linking emotional and physical well-being to pet ownership. Lonely and depressed people are urged to get a pet or to volunteer at a shelter where they can have interactions with animals in an effort to boost their social functioning.
While some may balk at the idea that stroking a puppy could make you more social, many swear that having a pet makes them happier, more productive people.
It’s not so difficult to see why when you break it down:
1) A sense of security. This can be key for children with special needs, though we all benefit from a sense of security. Pets can help ease separation anxiety and teach children how to calm themselves in stressful situations. As adults, it can be comforting to know you aren’t going home to an empty house.
2) No more lonely nights. The days of coming home and vegging out on your couch feeling sorry for yourself are long gone. OK, you will probably still veg on the couch if you’re a cat person, but at least you won’t be alone. Pets fill your space with energy and life.
3) Get fit. If you have a dog, chances are they’ll need some exercise which means getting up and getting out and walking yourself. Dog owners routinely say a side effect of getting a pup is getting into better shape. Now, that’s not to say you can’t walk a cat– I’ve seen it done– but you probably won’t. This is one area where dogs definitely rule.
4) Zap stress. While pets come with their own stressors as anyone who’s come home to a chewed shoe or accident can attest, they do a heck of a lot to reduce your overall stress. Some studies have shown that petting an animal can ease depression symptoms and even your heart rate, making you feel relaxed. This is why animals are used in hospitals for therapy.
5) A true confidant. Because animals can’t talk, many find it easier to spill the beans to a pet. Service animals are often used in this capacity and provide a safe place for people to talk out their problems. Animals are often used in treatment for traumatic stress for just this reason. Plus, just having someone to talk to who won’t talk back can be pretty sweet.
6) Live longer. Pet owners live longer than those without pets. Probably because they’re not as stressed out (see No. 4), are more active (see No. 3) and have something that adds meaning to their lives. Older adults with pets have 30% fewer doctor visits than their counterparts.
7) You’re just a better person. Pets can bring out the best in people. Pet owners tend to show more empathy and compassion to other people. They may be more generous and care more about others. When I was dating, I always knew a guy was decent if he had a pet.
In essence, animals fulfill a basic human need– touch. Pets love unconditionally and add a lot to the lives of their owners.
Take a look around at pet owners you know (or yourself) and see how pets have changed them.
What characteristics do you notice?