We all have an image of that person we know who is way too obsessed with pets. It could be that guy on Facebook who posts more photos of his dog than his girlfriend, or that old widower whose conversations all start with “My cat Mittens did the funniest thing today,” or that Being Latino Writer who occasionally slips, and uses the same pet names for his wife that he also uses on his dog. The funny thing is, as kooky as these pet lovers are, they may be reaping real health benefits.
In list form for the concentration impaired, here are
Five Health Benefits of Pet Ownership
Increased Psychological Health – We all know that for most pet owners, their animal becomes their buddy. There are some studies that give psychological backing to what we already knew. A Saint Louis University study showed that people who interacted regularly with a pet felt a sense of belonging similar to friendship. In other words, the pet made its owner feel welcome.
Less Stress – When you first got your pet, you may have been nervous about getting burnt out from having to walk it, feed it, and dispose of its feces. But for many people this anxiety is unfounded. Studies have shown that pets actually reduce stress. One experiment showed that when performing a task in front of a loved one, or in front of their pet, people performed the task with less strain when it was their furry friend hanging out with them.
Physical Fitness – Maybe it’s because those extra calories they burn walking Fido, cleaning Kitty’s litter, or disposing of Tweety’s newspaper, but yes, pet owners have generally been shown to be more physically fit then their animal-eschewing counterparts.
Mental Fitness – Having an animal brings a lot of responsibility, and part of that responsibility involves having to remember tedious bits of info about your pet. For example, your cat’s litter has to be cleaned X amount of times or else the house will stink, you can’t let your dog do X, Y, and Z. While you’re staying on point with all of these things, you’re exercising your brain. Take solace in that next time you’re picking up after poochie.
Healthier Children – In spite of your child’s precious immune systems, it turns out that exposing your children to those sweet little bits of pet dander and other animal related allergens may actually be good for your newborn child. A recent study suggests that children exposed to pets in their first year of life had fewer incidents of respiratory infections and less need for antibiotics than children who weren’t exposed to animals.
From personal experience as the proud “parent” of a dog, cat, and bird, I can tell you that my pets do keep me in shape. They keep me stay active, keep me balanced, and have given me a greater sense of awareness about the bigger picture in the world. I am not saying to go out and buy the first dog you see (never buy a dog anyway, adopt), but if you’re open to the idea of adopting an new friend, you’ll find that you’ll see real positive effects.