“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” – Anatole France
Ask any pet owner, and they will likely agree that having a pet is one of the most beautiful parts of their life. According to one estimate, 95% of pet owners consider their pet to be a member of the family! Some houses even have more pets than children! One might have a dog, cat, fish, or a less common creature, such as reptiles, snakes, frogs, etc. However, the vast majority of owners agree that pets, regardless of their type, are a great source of happiness. This leads to the question, do pets only provide happiness, or are there scientific benefits as well?
For anyone trying to convince their parents or family members to get a pet, here is the information you need to use if you want to win that inevitable debate!
The biggest and most widely known benefit of having a pet is the love and companionship they offer. Unlike humans, animals offer us their love without judgement – no questions asked. They are loyal and loving, and there aren’t enough words in the world to express the joy of coming home to a loving pet.
Animals can have a very calming effect on our minds. For example, watching fish swim in a tank can calm a person down. In one study, when Alzheimer’s patients ate a meal in front of a fish tank, they became more attentive and ate better. Another study involved a group of children with reading difficulties practicing by reading aloud to a dog, while another similar group of children read aloud to a stuffed toy dog. The former group—with the real animal—showed remarkable improvement and displayed significantly less anxiety than the latter. Having a pet has also been linked to lower levels of social anxiety among people. Having an animal partner who accepts you for who you are can do wonders for your mental health!
Taking care of a pet is by no means a small responsibility. Therefore, having a pet inculcates a sense of responsibility, which eventually reflects on one’s own health. A study showed that diabetic people taking care of a pet were more regular about checking their own blood sugar levels and taking their medicine, thus leading to better health. Older people also tend to feel less lonely and better about themselves when they’re taking care of a pet.
Animals are quite sensitive to emotions, and this is especially true of dogs. They are very protective towards their owners and act as great sources of relief. They can sense when their presence is required and will shower their human with unconditional love. Studies have also shown that petting and talking to your furry companion leads to a decrease in blood pressure and heart rate. Spending time around and playing with your pet also leads to the release of “feel good” chemicals in our brain. Research has demonstrated that simply looking into your dog’s eyes can trigger the release of oxytocin—colloquially known as the love hormone—in your dog’s brain, and your own!
Pets also increase a person’s social activity, whether that is in terms of walks, conversation topics, increased confidence, etc.
Having a pet also provides a number of physical benefits. If you have an animal that requires physical exercise, you will also end up exercising more frequently, which will improve your overall fitness. Some people say that your dog’s physical health can be indicative or reflective of your own. In the past, it was believed that houses with pets were more likely to have members who were prone to allergies. However, there are an increasing amount of studies showing that people staying in houses with a pet are actually less prone to allergies, especially if the pet is a furry animal. This is possibly due to the fact that furry animals have a higher chance of carrying germs, and the exposure to these germs strengthens the immune system of all the members of the household.
Pet owners also show lower levels of cholesterol triglycerides—the main component that forms your fat, an excess of which can lead to serious cardiovascular problems.
Downside of Having a Pet
Obviously, having a pet is not a small commitment. It requires dedicated attention, time, emotional investment and money. Regular check-ups at the veterinarian are essential. Animals can also spread diseases that can be transferred to humans, so keeping them healthy is necessary. Even factors like space, family member age, their health and their financial status must be considered. Families that have members with weakened immunity must be careful about the type of pet they bring home. Bigger animals, and those animals that require exercise, like dogs, horses, etc. should only be taken in if the family can afford the requisite space and exercise. Certain animals require a higher financial commitment for their care, so this factor mu st also be considered.
Keeping a pet presents a great number of health benefits, and while there are certain problems they may pose, having prior knowledge can help you tackle those obstacles and enjoy a new chapter of life with your pet. The belief that having a pet made you healthier used to be considered a biased opinion from pet owners, but it’s now backed up by science! Certain hospitals have also started bringing in therapy dogs to help children and old people heal in a happier space. If a person has the ability to look after and keep an animal companion, the negative aspects of pet ownership definitely pale in comparison to the wide range of benefits!
- Centers For Disease Control And Prevention
- National Institutes Of Health (NIH)
- Harvard University (Link 1)
- Harvard University (Link 2)