For as long as I can remember there have always been animals in my house. As a child a ginger cat that apparently liked to sleep under the bassinet preceded me. Over the years we have had as series of cats, more recently a dog, and at times goldfish and hermit crabs. And at times we have temporarily cared for neighbor’s hamsters, rabbits or guinea pigs.
Humans have been cohabitating with animals for thousands of years. This is both as a working partnership and also as a social one. Like most things, which endure, there are benefits to both sides. It should therefore come as no surprise to learn that having a pet is being found to have numerous positive effects on our health.
Having a pet lowers stress. This makes obvious sense. A pet is comforting and provides unconditional love. It is hard bordering on impossible to feel stressed whilst patting a dog or cat. Watching fish is also soothing.
People with pets have lower rates of heart disease and also have lower blood pressure. This may be related to the lower stress. However those with dogs in particular are more likely to exercise regularly which of course has numerous health benefits.
Other work has shown having a pet can be a great soother in children with behavioral or developmental problems including autism. Whilst in no way a cure or “treatment” the presence of a pet can have a calming effect on the child. In a different vein, some hospitals in the USA have started allowing pet visits to sick children. This brightens the child’s day and aids in their treatment and recovery.
Pets have been shown to lower anxiety in teenagers facing exams
At the other end of life a pet is of great comfort to the elderly. This is even more so for people living alone.
Workplace productivity has been improved where pets can be accommodated. This is for the simple reason that pets lower stress. When stress is lowered productivity is enhanced.
People with mental health problems such as depression also benefit from the presence of a pet. This again reflects the calming effect of a pet and also the unconditional love.
So whilst we tend to think of health as revolving around healthy eating and exercise, there are other things, which are good for our health. Having and caring for a pet is one of them.
What a great and fun way to enhance health.