We are all well aware of the benefits to humans of service animals (guide dogs, for example). But what about domestic pets, including dogs, cats, and birds? How can they benefit their owners’ health and wellbeing?
Owning and loving a pet is proven to help make humans both mentally and physically healthier.
Research into this phenomenon has shown the following benefits to humans of having a pet:
Lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels
Improved physical activity if the pet is a dog
Fewer medical consultations
Children who own pets miss less school due to illness
Stronger immune system if one has a pet from infancy or early childhood
Better social skills and connections
Higher self esteem
More positive outlook
Lower levels of loneliness
Playing with a cat or dog has been proven to elevate serotonin and dopamine in the brain; these chemicals enhance wellbeing, and bring calmness and relaxation.
Heart attack survivors statistically survive longer if they are dog owners.
People aged over sixty five who own pets visit their doctors thirty percent less than those without a companion animal.
How? Touch is a basic human need. Hugging, petting, stroking, and touching a loving and lovable animal calms, soothes, eases loneliness, and even hardened criminals in prisons display positive long term behavioural changes after interacting with dogs and cats.
Additionally, a responsible dog owner will exercise their dog; the need to do this encourages healthy lifestyle changes including increased exercise; meeting new, likeminded people; and adding routine to one’s day.
Caring for a pet requires selflessness and attention to another. This is incredibly rewarding, as well as being an antidote to the “Me Me Me” philosophy so many people sadly espouse.
Pets give as much, if not more, love as they receive. They know when we are sick or feeling down; they are great company all of the time. Even a standoffish cat will give love (especially when the weather is cold!). There is nothing lovelier than being greeted by a dog who is excited to see you more than any other; or a cat who wants nothing more than to curl up against you and show their love and appreciation in purrs. There is nothing like the companionship a pet offers. This can bring meaning to an older or sick person’s life, and naturally boosts vitality.
Australia has one of the world’s highest rates of pet ownership. Pet ownership serves not just the animal, but also their human. It is a symbiotic relationship and one which has no equal. This is something pet owners will understand and appreciate.