Pets are known to be excellent companions who not only promote our emotional well being but also our physical well being and even help in building the community. Children and adults alike can benefit from being with pets, which can provide a source of calmness and relaxation, as well as a source of stimulation for the brain and body. A new study indicates pet therapy could be a key form of treatment in the future that can be used to improve a range of mental health conditions, from anxiety and loneliness to depression and low self-esteem. These can also be used in occupational therapy, speech therapy or physical rehabilitation to help patients recover. These therapeutic effects are due to the reason that pets fulfill the basic human need for touch.
Owning a pet is one of the best ways to give back to nature since many of the animals die every day due to lack of shelter and food. As Gandhiji also stated in his book – ‘The man’s supremacy over the lower animals meant not that the former should prey upon the latter, but that the higher should protect the lower, and that there should be mutual aid between the two’. The better we understand the human-animal bond, the more we can use it to improve people’s lives.
Here are the key reasons why having a pet is great for your body, mind, and soul.
- Physical well being: Sharing your life with a pet has been associated with many health benefits like increased cardiovascular health (lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels, and lower triglyceride levels), fewer cardiac attacks, stronger immunity and reduced allergies owed to the regular exercise and playing around required by your pet. Pet owners over age 65 make 30 percent fewer visits to their doctors than those without pets.
Canine pets are also known to recognize the warning signs of a handful number of diseases. Like if a person is about to have an epileptic seizure, or if someone is showing signs of cancer, Parkinson’s disease or diabetes, they can alert the pet owners accordingly.
Also, pets like dogs and cats are known to bring structure and routine to the pet owners’ life because they strive on a fixed schedule for eating, sleeping, outdoor walking, or urinating/defecating. Hence, if someone is looking forward to a healthier life, pets are the way to go.
- Mental well-being: Caring for a live animal can help make you feel needed and wanted, and take the focus away from your problems, especially if you live alone. People with pets tend to have a more positive outlook on life and report less loneliness, restlessness, despair, depression, and boredom. Pets are the best mood uplifters. Whenever you are home, they will rush towards you to offer their unconditional love that no matter how bad your day was, they will be there to make it better. Playing with pets can also elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine in the body which are believed to have calming and soothing effects.
Pets can be the true companion for the children (especially in a single-parent or single-child families) as well as the elderly. Playing with a pet can prove to be a good learning for a child. It can stimulate a child’s imagination and curiosity. The rewards of training a dog to perform a new trick, for example, can teach kids the importance of perseverance. They can also teach children about a sense of responsibility by letting them do the tasks related to cage cleaning, grooming, and teaching tricks. Children with pets have a comparatively higher level of empathy and self-esteem.
Children with autism and similar learning disorders often find it difficult talking to fellow human beings, but they have no problem at all with chatting away to friendly animals. Elderly people also find pets as a great company and they are known to reduce their loneliness and anxiousness.
- Social well-being: Owning a pet allows you to get introduced to a community of pet owners and animal lovers sharing similar interests. These can foster true friendships and become the source of social support with time. Pets can act as ice-breakers for people who you would have not known otherwise. Owning a pet can also help people to recover from personal trauma such as bereavement or loss of someone.
- Sense of security: Pets like a dog are great caregivers and they make you feel safe by taking care of the house when you are not around or when children are alone at home or while roaming outside the house in dark.
Hence, owning a furry friend has many benefits and they can provide a sense of purpose and fulfillment to your lives. But it is important to know that each pet is different in terms of its need for care, attention, food, exercise etc. and owning a pet is a long-term commitment. Hence, whenever you decide to bring your little buddy home, do keep in mind about the pet needs and see whether or not it adapts to your lifestyle.
Read more about pet needs here.