Anyone who has ever owned a pet will agree that they bring endless fun to your life, as well as hours of amusement.
It seems that dogs and cats can calm us down and reduce stress. They also encourage us to get extra exercise. Older people who live alone often have dogs or cats as their companions.
So, how do our pets help us cope with stress?
Stroking or playing with animals has been proven to release serotonin and dopamine, both of which are known to relax us.
Studies have shown that people with pets suffer less from depression. They are also less likely to have high blood pressure than a person without a pet.
Hypertension is decreased in people who have a pet to cuddle or walk, and people who own pets have lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels, meaning less heart disease.
People who have a pet visit the doctor less than those without pets, making 30% fewer visits to the doctor. Research has also shown that people who have had heart attacks survive longer when they have a pet to care for.
Having a pet does not mean only a dog or cat, it has bee proven that watching fish in an aquarium helps reduce tension and eases stress and anxiety.
Why does this happen?
One of the most basic human needs is to touch and feel. Pets fulfill this need in humans by being there for us to stroke and cuddle whenever we feel the need.
Research has shown that even hardened criminals interact positively with pets. The simple act of touching a pet is enough to calm and relieve anxiety in most people.
Anyone who has a cat will agree that to sit down and have the cat jump onto your lap and be stroked is something to enjoy. The touch of silky fur between your fingers significantly calms you down. You may even fall asleep! What will happen is that you will mentally be taking a break from a stressful life and will feel more able to cope later.
Pets and a healthy lifestyle
Having a pet improves our lifestyle. Dogs need to be exercised, and this encourages even the most introverted person to venture outside. Dogs naturally gravitate to other dogs and owners are brought together, when under other circumstances they may never have met.
Fresh air and exercise are essential for good health and having a pet makes this happen. Pet owners are far more likely to meet daily exercise needs when they take their dogs for a walk. Not that exercise isn’t good for your pooch. He also needs exercise so that he stays healthy.
Sometimes as people get older, they become lonelier and more isolated. Friends and spouses may pass away and leave them on their own. A pet plays a very important role in providing companionship for them.
Loneliness is a trigger for such issues as depression and having a constant companion goes a long way to eradicate this. It also takes the mind off their own problems and focuses on taking care of their pet.
Pets add a structure to our day. They love their routines! We feel we should stick to their routines otherwise they will feel out of sorts, so we get up at a specific time, take our pooch for a walk, feed him at his regular time, and so on. Our pet’s routine gives structure to our day. Often people who live alone do not have any structure to their day. A pet will change that.
Stress and anxiety are reduced by just having a pet to take care of. Pets reduce the anxiety of going out alone because they can go out with you. Even the shiest person will be able to walk the dog and then meet people.
Pets are not worried about what happened yesterday, neither do they care about tomorrow, all they care about is the present and how you are feeling. Anyone who has a dog will agree that their job in life is to keep their human happy.
Stroking a cat or dog is a quick way to reduce stress. Blood pressure will also be lowered, and you will feel less anxious and more at peace.
So, we see that having a healthy lifestyle goes a long way in reducing the signs of anxiety, stress, and depression.
And for older people?
Having a pet provides the opportunity to stay connected. The pet needs food, which must be bought. Dogs need exercise which means taking them out. Often after a death older people are less inclined to venture out alone. Having a pet enables them to stay in their social circle even without a spouse.
Joy and meaning
Pets give meaning to our lives. Children move away, partners pass away, but a pet stays with you. Caring for an animal instead of being entirely focused on ourselves gives a new meaning to our lives. Keeping the pet as happy and satisfied as we can give us joy.
Adds well being
Older people who have pets are more active. Pets encourage them to move more, laugh at playful antics and get more exercise. All these mean a better lifestyle for older people with pets. Many older people stop forms of exercise but having a pet encourages them to move around, go out for a walk or simply wash bedding. Anything that keeps them active is beneficial.
Older people who are becoming forgetful will benefit from having a pet that they must remember to feed. Additionally, they must remember things like buying food and vet visits. They are keeping their minds active by making themselves remember specific things and times. Even if they must write themselves a note to remind them, anything that makes the brain keep active is a good thing.
And what about pets for children?
Studies have shown that children who grow up with pets are less likely to suffer from asthma and allergies.
Children who have pets learn about responsibility at an early age. They learn compassion for other people and animals.
For introverted children who may have problems at school, a pet is a great companion. They will never judge the child or make them feel inferior.
Unlike school teachers, a pet will never give orders or punish them for doing wrong. Pets will always be there to listen and not condemn them for underachieving.
Hyperactive children are soothed by stroking a cat or dog, and even aggressive children become calmer.
Children who are left on their own while parents go out always benefit from having a companion to stay with them. Not that it’s a good idea to leave kids alone, but when parents are not around for any reason, a pet will stay with the child.
Having a pet who loves unconditionally makes a more self-confident child who is better able to handle the real world and all it throws at him.
Having a pet means extra exercise for the child as they play together. Neither the child nor a dog gets tired of throwing a ball!
Training a dog will bring great rewards to the child as well as a sense of achievement. The child will also learn perseverance and patience., as well as finding out about the needs of animals.
Of course, not all dogs are suitable companions for young children, there are some that are simply too boisterous. It is wise to research the ideal pet for your child before bringing it home.
What about people with Alzheimer’s Disease?
Research has shown that people with these conditions display fewer outbursts when they have a dog or cat in the house. Even watching the animals seems to calm them significantly.
When sufferers are unable to verbally communicate, having a pet provides a non-verbal interaction.
Caregivers of people who suffer from Alzheimer’s also receive the benefits of having a pet. Often, they are very stressed, and this is communicated to the sufferer. Having a cat to stroke relaxes the caregiver and eases stress.
To sum up
Well, I hope you’ve learned something about pets and how they affect our moods. It’s a great thing that an animal can play such a vital and important part in so many lives.
Of course, which pet you have is entirely based on your own preferences and lifestyle. If you live in an apartment, you may opt for a cat or a smaller dog, while if you have a garden and outside area, you may opt for a larger dog.
Whichever type of pet you get, it will be a good decision, one of the best you can make, and one that will give you rewards for the rest of your time together.
Hello, my name’s Valerie, and I have a furry friend called Bentley. He’s the light of my life and seems to cheer me up just looking at him. I started to think about how our pets affect moods and found out some interesting facts. I also write for OfficiallyPets so feel free to read some of my articles there.
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