Pet owners, whether they own cats, dogs, birds or any other creature that allows for interaction have known this for a long time. Pets enhance your life in a multiple of other ways besides just the fun. Sure it is entertaining to watch housemate felines chase each other around the house, attack each other from strategic vantage points and create games that only they understand. For dog owners, just watching their canine companions run through fields, performing at agility trials or curling up in one’s lap can bring quick smiles to their faces. But beyond the immediate pleasure that watching or interacting with our pets brings, the health benefits have long been noted. Consider the following:
1. Pets help lower anxiety and decrease blood pressure. This finding has been noted by researchers for over twenty five years.
2. Pets may reduce the likelihood that children in a household become allergic. According to James E. Gern, MD, a pediatrician at the University of Wisconsin-Madison a growing number of studies suggest that kids growing up in a home with “furred animals”, whether it is a pet cat or dog, will have less risk of allergies and asthma.
3. Pets may slow the progression or mitigate the symptoms of Alzheimer Disease and other forms of dementia. Studies have shown that Alzheimer patients have fewer anxious outbursts if there is a pet in the environment. Caregivers of dementia patients also report feeling less burdened when a pet is present. The pets provide interaction and attention getting behavior to enhance continuing socialization of the patient. When dementia patients remain social, the outward signs of disease progress more slowly.
4. Pets mitigate the signs of depression in people who suffer chronically from this disease. Pet companionship (through physical interaction) increases levels of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine thereby enhancing mood.
5. Heart attack patients who have pets survive longer than those without, according to several studies. Male pet owners have less signs of heart disease and lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels than non-owners.
These are just few of the physical benefits of pet ownership. In addition, through the act of owning, interacting and exercising with our pets, we enhance our own physical condition and that of our pet companions. And of course we all know that a pet can be a great way to meet people and further your own social life. Although we are well aware of many of the benefits of pet ownership, research has only begun to scratch the surface of the complexity of the human companion animal bond. The tactile satisfaction when we stroke our pets, the calming we feel when our pets cuddle in our laps and even the smile brought to our faces after we discipline a pet for doing something “bad”, but funny is beyond scientific explanation. Yet any pet owner will tell you one thing with certainty; a life lived without a pet, is a life only half lived. Enjoy your pet companions.