Having a pet, be it a cat, dog, bird, fish, horse, pig, or whatever furry creature you relate to, is a positive and healthy experience. Studies have proven that they can extend our lives, lower our blood pressure, and pretty much make us feel good all over because they give us unconditional love.
You may be surprised to learn that well over half of the United States households have at least one pet (studies show 63% or it may be even more). A total of 75 million dogs and 85 million cats are owned in the United States (Cats Rule!) And you can just imagine how many households around the world have not only one pet, but often times many more.
Studies have shown that pets help lower blood pressure, prevent heart disease, reduce stress, fight depression, and lower health care costs for their owners. It has been found that pet owners tend to have lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels than non-pet owners. The service animals provide an invaluable service to their human companions by helping to give them independence, warn them of seizures, and give them comfort in light of their trying times and disabilities.
Pets also help their owners by providing them with a greater psychological stability. A pet’s affection helps its owner when facing trauma or adversity, and help to foster a sense of total security.
When my mother-in-law’s health was failing, we had gotten her a cat whose name was Gracie Allen Burns, Gracie for short. Gracie would lay next to my mother-in-law purring softly and gently nudging up against her for hours at a time. Gracie brought her so much comfort and joy all the way up to the end of her time. My father-in-law then gave Gracie to my husband and me, and we loved her so very much. Sadly she developed a very aggressive type of cancer a few years later. The vet gave her treatments to try and save her, but her little body just couldn’t fight all the aggression the disease took from her, and we lost her a short time later.
Many nursing home, assisted living and other such facilities are now allowing animals such as cats and dogs to live among their residents, as it gives them peace and comfort.
Have you ever read the book “Making Rounds with Oscar” by David Dosa, M.D. It is the story of “the extraordinary gift of an ordinary cat” that was the resident of a nursing care / hospice facility. Oscar brought much comfort to the residents and was always a friend when someone needed that extra purr. The unusual thing about Oscar is that he knew when it was someone’s time to leave this earth and travel on to their heavenly place with God. Oscar would go to the patient’s room and stay with that person until the end. Many would think this would be a scary thing, having Oscar show up, but the families sited in the book said it brought them comfort knowing their loved one was not alone at that special time.
The companion of a pet usually helps people feel better about themselves, reducing feeling of stress, anxiety, and loneliness. Pets also improve our health by promoting a more active lifestyle. We not only receive the health benefits from walking or running with a pet (Most likely a dog, but I have seen people walking their cats on a leash. Mine however would never cooperate with this effort, unless I carried them or rode them around in their stroller. Yes, I did say their stroller). We also put forth energy while we feed, groom, and care for our pets. I know our cats certainly have my husband and myself trained very well in these efforts.
There is significant evidence that pets help develop stronger social skills in children. Often, a child will turn to its pet for comfort in stressful situations. Children usually speak to and interact with their pets, helping them develop the skills needed for interactions with other children. Sharing in the necessary everday responsibilities of caring for a pet has proven to raise self-esteem and feelings of competence in children of all ages.
Take for instance all the work that is done with autistic children and other children that are disabled or are high risk individuals and horses and other farm animals. There are many programs around the country that are very successful in bringing out the true love of a child and an animal, and the relationship they feel when being around and caring for that animal. I saw a news article on TV the other night that focused on a group out west somewhere that took in abused horses, then they had children who had also been abused who came out and helped care for the horses. It was a win-win situation in that both the horse and the child both felt better not only physically but emotionally as well.
There are so many animals, however, that are discarded like yesterday’s news. And in a country as caring and helpful as we are, this should not be. So if you are thinking of getting a pet of your own, or getting a furry friend for the pet or pets you already have, please consider adopting from a shelter. There are many shelters out there: all cities and towns would have a Humane Society shelter, and you can find many “no kill” shelters out there as well. If you are looking for a specific breed, check the internet and there are breed rescue groups all over the country, just type in the breed you are looking for with animal rescue group. This will lead you to several sites, many of which can pinpoint the rescue group in your area by simply typing in your zip code. Also check your local pet store such as Petco and Pet Supermarket as they will typically be working with no kill shelters and rescue groups and have animal adoption days sometimes every Saturday, or at least once a month, and some even keep some of the animals available for adoption at their store full time. So get on the internet and look to see what is most available to you, visit your local animal shelter or pet adoption event and find that perfect furry companion. You will save a life of not only the animal, but quite possibly even your own. You won’t regret it!