“Don’t think of it as a pet, think of it as a ‘trainer’ with hair,” said a poster I saw hanging in a veterinarian’s office. And how true that is. Pet ownership not only provides emotional benefits in terms of preventing and reducing stress, anxiety and depression, but it can also add to your cardiovascular health, longevity, sense of security and true joy as well. Let’s explore this.
Here are a few points to ponder as you pet your favorite furry friend.
- Own a dog? You are less likely to experience depression and are likely to have lower blood pressure when faced with situations you deem as stressful.
- Own a cat? Having some fun with your pet can increase your levels of serotonin and dopamine, the king and queen of relaxing and calming chemicals in your body, while also lowering your triglyceride and cholesterol levels. Research tells us cat owners sleep better too.
- If you are 65 years old or more and own a dog or cat, you’ll likely see your doctor about 30% less than your same age friends who don’t own pets. Sorry docs. Why? It seems it’s all in the touching, the stroking, the petting, the hugging and the holding that soothes and calms pet owners. But wait. That’s not all!
- Own a pet and you’ll also find increased exercise along with some beneficial weight loss from all of that walking.
- Having a pet whom provides enjoyable ways of meeting and chatting with people, are also side effects of owing and caring for Baily, Bella, Max, Lucy, Charlie or Molly (the most popular names for dogs according to www.dogtime.com ). That means you’ll be smiling and laughing more, and with increased exercise that little fellow or gal encourages, well, all of this can boost your immune system and increase your vitality.
- Allen R. McConnell, PhD, of Miami University in Ohio, reported based on his research, “…pet owners had greater self-esteem, were more physically fit, tended to be less lonely, were more conscientious, were more extraverted, tended to be less fearful and tended to be less preoccupied than non-owners.” There’s just no doubt from the research that pet owners are happier, healthier and better adjusted than non-pet owners.
- Even adults with Alzheimer’s disease/dementia suffer less stress when they live in a home with a Fido or Fluffy.
Now some folks do take it a bit far and there are indicators that you may be going over the line. Here are some signs:
- Are you jealous or have real separation anxiety when Oliver, Luna, Leo, Chloe, Charlie, Bella, Milo or Lucy – the most popular names for cats last year according to www.Rover.com – sleeps with other people in your home?
- Got more of a serious committed relationship with your pet than with a romantic partner?
- Go on and on and on and on about your pet with someone and realize they didn’t even ask you about Baily or Oliver?
- Go into full, genuine panic mode when your pet coughs, throws up or shows signs of illness?
While owning a dog or cat is not a “cure” for emotional disorders, research demonstrates it has wonderful benefits as listed above. But… this seems to be the case only if you are a pet person. If not, it’s likely that owning a pet may not provide you with the same benefits others may see. “The link is what you think” even when it comes to owning pets.
For those who are just over the moon about owning a dog, I came across a wonderful website for you, founded by Doug Ratner, www.idratherbewithmydog.net.
A portion of purchases from breed specific t-shirts, dog clothing, dog treats and an array of fun stuff, goes towards saving the lives of rescued pets.
Then there’s my neighbor’s dog that is always barking, yelping and begging for attention. Time to go out and see how we can calm each other down!