Pet owners are often classified as weird because well – they often are. They speak to their pets, ask them questions, post excessively on Social Media about how cute, naughty, big, small and awesome they are. And they follow, like, share anyone else that love their pets too. The thing is, all true pet owners (people that actually love their pets – not just get one that they hardly acknowledge) know that the benefits of owning pets far out way the cost and that pets are more than “just animals”, they are family.
But besides the warm fuzzy feelings, you may have when thinking of your furry pets… do you truly know all the benefits of owning a fluffy-half?
#1 Lowers Blood Pressure
Research conducted by various scientists, doctors and the like have shown a conclusive link between owning a pet and having blood pressure levels lower significantly when in contact with this pet. This is the most evident when examining hypertensive or high-risk patients whose blood pressure significantly drops when they are around their pets. Researchers mainly attribute this to pet owners relaxing and even laughing when around their dogs, cats or other pets.
And if you had to count how many times a day your fluffy makes you laugh and smile it isn’t that hard to believe.
#2 Decreases Stress
As highlighted above, pets can lower their owner’s blood pressure (especially in high-risk individuals). But wait there is more! Pets decrease stress levels in their fur-parents, which in turn means they have a healthier cardiovascular system; and research suggests that pet owners have lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels too; all of which are good for matters of the heart.
Plus, when petting a dog or cat (or any pet), a stress relieving hormone is released that relaxes the pet owner and thus instantly decreases stress levels.
Some interesting findings from a study at State University of New York at Buffalo (somewhere in the US of A), suggested that people experienced less stress when in the presence of their pet than when in the presence of a spouse, family member or friend, when doing a gruelling task.
These findings on pets reducing stress in individuals has meant that animals have been used in a wide range of treatments of human conditions – addictions, post-traumatic stress, autism, depression and burnout (amongst others). Pets help these struggling individuals by reducing stress, which is vital for recovery and/or development.
Life as we know it is stressful and anxiety leads to numerous health problems – but by watching fish swim in a tank, stroking a cat, dog, horse or goose, means that worries just melt away and with it, stress.
#3 Removes Loneliness From Life
This is a benefit which is most tangible for owners. Home is never empty when there is an animal in the house and they make for great companions – especially for older or more vulnerable people. The companionship of an animal helps to remove anxiety in an environment and the owner’s ability to talk to another living being is almost like a type of therapy. It almost gives an individual a purpose to get out of bed in the morning to look after their fluffy and a reason to look forward to going home.
Loneliness also falls at the wayside because pets are awesome ice-breakers and when taking your animals to the vet, for a walk, or anywhere really, chances are another pet owner would talk to you and ask about your pet.
#4 Sense of Responsibility
A sense of responsibility in looking after a pet is super for kids in that it teaches them about self-sacrificing love, empathy, as well as nurturing and practical skills. However, it is not only great for kids but adults that need a sense of importance or purpose in life; like the elderly or people prone to addiction or depression.
#5 Increases Exercise
Whether you are running after your furry to deworm them or playing with them in some way or actually taking them for a stroll or for a ride in a horse’s case – being around animals naturally increases your exercise levels.
Hikes, pet yoga, shows, outrides, playing in the house or garden, wrestling medication in their mouths, running and jumping to prevent yourself from tripping over fluffy – to name but a few examples of opportunities for increased exercise levels.
Did you know playing with cats even increases the dopamine levels in the body? To put this simply, a sudden sense of good feeling happens when you and your cat exercise through play-fighting around the house.
#6 Unconditional Love
The greatest gift of all is when an animal bestows his/her unconditional love for his/her human. Society often rejects people and makes them feel unloved – what better remedy than going home and finding their pup or kitty at the door ecstatically announcing and celebrating their arrival home. The indescribable feeling humans feel when they see their animal after a long day at work or a trip to the shops or to the gate/front yard… is just that – indescribable.
People who do not own pets sometimes cannot understand the behaviour of those who own cats or dogs or any other animal. And it is a little hard to explain. But having a familiar face that is happy to see you, eager to cuddle and looks into your eyes with love or admiration is a loving kinship that cannot be explained, only something to be felt with the heart.
#7 Eases Pain
Just like sedatives, pets help decrease anxiety, and this takes the “edge” off the pain. People suffering from migraines, arthritis, fibromyalgia and the like have said that they have felt a measure of relief when going through a particularly bad spell of pain, when their pets are in their presence. At the very least the pets offer their owners a form of comfort or distraction from the severe effects of pain.
#8 Improves Mood
If you have ever had a shocking day at work, had your heart broken or lost someone close to you, your pets will find a way to cheer you up. Whether it is to lick you, pop their head in your lap, come for a cuddle, do something cute, or bring you a toy or something they caught…in the case of horses, bring you something they lost (like a shoe) – they will find a way to perk you up.
Most of the health benefits of possessing a pet stem from the mental and emotional benefits. Generally, homes with pets are found to have more laughter. And it’s like you are a celebrity – meows, nickers, yaps, squeaks, squawks all bombard you as you step into your pet’s presence.
Research shows that so big are the reactions pets have on humans in improving moods that animals are often used to help soldiers or victims of post-traumatic stress disorder. Since “pet therapy” was introduced in situations like these, doctors have found patient recovery has increased and suicide rates have drastically decreased. The improved moods and positive responses have been attributed to the fact that animals don’t ask questions, they just love; and in feeling responsible for something, patients have sense of purpose.
#9 Helps People Socialise
The pet owner community is an incredibly friendly one. Whether you are at the vet, park, pet store, or work or a party …once the pet topic gets brought up – people instantly share pictures, tips, stories and if the pets are present lots of animal TLC happens (stranger danger doesn’t apply). Even the most introverted or shy person will perk up if strangers bring up the topic of their pets.
And on Social Media, pet lovers tend to engage loads in forums, posts, pages and celebrate/commemorate and mourn with other owners when stories are shared.
#10 Healthy Heart
As touched on in a few of the benefits above, owning a dog or cat (or other animals) is good for your heart. Research suggests that in particular, cat owners are 30 percent less likely to have a heart attack and 40% less likely to have cardiovascular issues like a stroke. Pet owners tend to recover quicker from surgeries related to heart matters too.
Some say that is because they bring so much love to their owners’ hearts – hence the heart health. Doctors, however, believe it is once again to do with pets decreasing anxiety levels and stress in their owners.
#11 Monitors Blood Sugar Levels
Naturally, there are the super pets that are trained to alert owners that their blood sugar levels are low or if they are going to have an epileptic fit or go in a coma. But studies have shown “non-trained” regular (but still special) pets like dogs, cats, birds and rabbits would exhibit unusual behaviour when their owner’s blood sugar levels dropped.
The reaction has been attributed to the chemical changes that occur in humans when their glucose level rapidly changes.
#12 Prevents Allergies and Improves Immunity
Now if you are an adult and you read this, and you got excited sorry neh! This one is for the kids.
According to a Paediatrician James E Gern (of University of Wisconsin-Madison aka. somewhere in the US of A) and his several studies, having a pet in the household can lower a child’s likelihood of developing allergies by as much as 30 percent. Gern’s article in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology — shows that kids exposed early on to animals tend to develop stronger immune systems overall. Yay fluffy!
#13 Helps Children
Besides all of the above benefits, there are various ways that pets can assist children with emotional development. Children with pets tend to express themselves better and learn to relate better to others; showing greater empathy.
Animals are also hugely beneficial for kids with autism and ADHD. Under supervision (like with all kids and animals), these kids are encouraged to focus on responsibilities through the predictable routine (fed at a certain time, play time etc.). The sensory experience of holding and petting animals can be extremely soothing for kids under stress or struggling with some type of difficulty.
Pets are also super companions – especially with kids that are shy or struggle with social interaction. Animals love unconditionally and help kids build their self-confidence.
#14 Detect Cancer
Not all fluffies may be cancer detectors. But there have been numerous reports and recordings of pets acting strangely and picking up cancer in their owners. In these cases, owners report that their pets started to excessively lick, paw, claw, and sniff at a certain part of their bodies continuously, which is the exact spot they get diagnosed with cancer not too long after.
#15 Make You Feel Safe
Being home alone in silence isn’t everyone’s cup of Savanah Loco. Having an animal in the home is a great way for people to feel safe. Some larger dog breeds also make excellent guard dogs; but all animals tend to alert you if something isn’t 100% (through barks, meows, squawks and body language).
These are only 15 benefits of having pets. You, may have more? Please share with us on Social Media or in the comment section below.
Sparkle Paws and Glitter Trails is the pet and animal section of Sparkle Ellie. You can read more about the fur-team here. The sparkle dream is to make South Africa a better place for animals and pets – down with animal cruelty, pet testing, dog fighting, neglect, abandonment and indifferent pet parenting. The change must start with individual South Africans and then this will spread out to the rest of the nation – and always for the sake of love. Today a blog, tomorrow who knows? Thank you for helping spread the sparkle dream of a fellow South African.
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