We’ve all seen the bumper stickers, with a black-and-white pawprint, asking the age-old question, “Who rescued who?” We usually laugh them off, but what if they’re onto something?
While it’s well known that animals can offer emotional support as well as service (when properly trained), there might be more to it. Recently, researchers have been looking more and more into the health benefits that come with animal companionship. These studies have spanned across the social sciences, medicine and animal behavioral sciences.
To see what Fluffy or Fido might be doing to help you, keep reading!
Benefits of having a pet
Having any pet, regardless of type, has been shown to have health benefits. Whether the animal has fur, feathers or scales, the companionship of an animal has been shown to help with mood.
Specifically, playing with a pet causes the release of dopamine and serotonin. These are the chemicals in the brain that are commonly associated with happiness and good moods. Additionally, physical contact with an animal, such as cuddling or petting, quickly results in feeling calmer.
Pet owners, on average, also have lower levels of cholesterol and triglyceride – signals of heart disease – than those who don’t have pets.
Worried about pets and kids? Don’t be. Having a pet around can help kids learn responsibility, but it also leads to greater empathy. A pet’s presence can also decrease separation anxiety.
Am I too old for a pet? Goodness no! There are plenty of benefits of pets for older adults as well. Having a pet really helps maintain a consistent schedule, which can reduce symptoms of PTSD, anxiety and depression. Beyond that, companionship is a life-lengthener. Having a built-in BFF can actually make you live longer.
What’s the best way to keep your kids from having a pet allergy? Introduce them to cats and dogs early in life! Research shows introducing your 1-year-old to some furry friends has up to 33% effectiveness in staving off pet allergies.
Did you get your steps in today? If you have a dog, you’re four times more likely to meet your daily exercise goal than those without one. Extra studies also saw that having a dog was helpful for those attempting to lose weight. Why? That’s because dogs provide a different type of support than a human exercise buddy. Since dogs don’t usually have a schedule, they’re consistently available when you are, and they don’t usually make owners feel judged.
Although, before you run out and get a dog, note that some studies found that those with large dogs tended to exercise more, but smaller dogs didn’t inspire the same effect.
Also, while you’re getting out and about, you’re likely to meet more people. Having a dog can make it easier to start and keep up new friendships. Social relationships between humans are often formed at dog parks, training classes and during walks.
Fluffy always seems convinced that purring near you is healing you. But is it true? Maybe! Cats purr at a frequency of 26 Hz, the same frequency used by doctors for tissue regeneration. This means that the vibrations from purring can help heal wounds and relieve pain. Cat owners are also 40% less likely to have a heart attack.
Want the health benefits of having a pet without the trouble of constant care and potential allergens? Having a fully stocked aquarium in your house could be a great, hassle-free alternative.
Taking a step back and watching fish “just keep swimming” has been shown to help your heart. Fish observation (at home or at an aquarium) has been shown to help lower blood pressure as well as lower your heart rate by five to six beats per minute.
Have you ever wondered why you tend to see fish tanks at dentist offices? It turns out that the mesmerizing movement has been shown to lower anxiety. So, if you’re worried about the dentist finding a cavity, just know that those swimmers are there to calm you down.
Using the knowledge that having aquariums could help those in very stressful situations, researchers decided to see if they also could help Alzheimer’s patients. The studies found that having fish tanks around had some very positive results. Patients were eating about 20% more and appeared to be more alert and relaxed. The tanks even held the patients’ attention for around 30 minutes.
Bird or a plant – which do you think is more beneficial? Sorry plant parents, but one study that asked this question found that while plants didn’t really make much of a difference in the lives of older adults, birds did. Having a bird as a pet improved the quality of life for the subjects.
So, if you’re thinking about getting a pet, consider these as some items for the “pro” category.
Source: Orange County Register