Did you know that besides man, dogs are also a cheetah’s best friend? It’s true! Cheetahs that are bred in captivity are nervous and timid by nature. They often have dogs as their best friend to become more comfortable with their environment.1 Dogs—or rather, pets—form an integral part of some, if not all, people’s lives. Scrolling through Facebook? You’re bound to see a video of cats destroying Christmas trees in the house. Browsing through Instagram? Oh, look! There’s that cute video of a puppy and a baby. Even Whatsapp forwards contain one or the other videos of animals that make you laugh uncontrollably.
This virtual as well as the physical connection that we share with animals shapes a part of us. Animals aren’t just a part of our ecosystem, they are a part of our society. They are also helping some of us survive. Seeing-eye dogs, dogs that can be trained to detect seizures, animals used in occupational therapy, speech therapy, or physical rehabilitation, etc. are all excellent examples.2 Aside from this, a pet can be your greatest and most loyal companion. This companionship affects our physical as well as mental health for the better.
Studies have proven that having a pet gives you the following health benefits:
- Decreased blood pressure (watching your pet fish swim in the tank is oddly calming)
- Decreased cholesterol levels (your cat will always demand a slice of your pizza)
- Increased opportunities for exercise and outdoor activities (frisbee catch with your dog? Great, you’re going to lose a lot of calories!)
- Increased opportunities for socialization (did you know that pet cafes are a thing now?)
Pets have also been shown to be beneficial for children with autism or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Animals help in capturing the attention of autistic kids. A part of sensory integration activities helps children get used to the way something feels against their skin, like the feel of a horse or the coat of a dog, which can provide a calming sensation. For an ADHD kid, having a pet is a great way to get rid of the excess energy. It also teaches kids to be responsible, and the bond between a companion pet and a child is so strong that children with ADHD also learn about self-esteem.4
- Pets can help ease anxiety. One study took place at two different doctor visits for routine physicals. The blood pressure, heart rate, and behavioral distress in healthy children aged 3 to 6 were measured. At one visit, a dog that was unrelated to the child was present in the room and at the other visit, the dog was absent. When the dog was present, children had lower blood pressure measures, lower heart rates, and less behavioral distress.
- Pets also decrease your stress. Not everyone likes crowds or talking to people. Having a pet encourages more social interactions with people and reduces feelings of isolation or loneliness in such individuals. Walking your pet in the park increases your chances of socialization. Bonding with people over pet talks seems like a better idea than a boring small talk, doesn’t it?
- Pets enhance well being in the elderly. A study concluded that elderly individuals with a dog or cat performed better in certain “activities of daily living,” for e.g. climbing stairs, bending, kneeling, or stooping; taking medication; preparing meals, and bathing and dressing oneself. There were no significant differences between the abilities of dog and cat owners. What researchers suggest is that the companionship offered by these animals mimics a care-taking role, which may give older individuals a sense of responsibility and purpose that contributes to their overall well-being.
Research also shows that pets help single children develop greater empathy, higher self-esteem, and increased participation in social and physical activities.
Pets are cute, but they’re not for everyone.3
- Children of 5 years of age and younger should not have or be exposed to pets such as turtles or frogs because it increases the risk of serious illness from the spreading of harmful germs.
- Pregnant women should try to avoid cats, especially kittens. Cats can carry a parasite that causes toxoplasmosis—a disease that can cause birth defects. The same applies to pet rodents. They can expose pregnant women to the lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus, which can also cause birth defects.
So go ahead and thank your pet with a hug today! If you don’t have one, show some love to a stray animal. And, if you feel you’re up for it, get one for yourself! But remember, adopt, don’t shop.REFERENCES:
1. Bove, Jennifer. How Dogs Are Helping Cheetahs. ThoughtCo. Available at: https://www.thoughtco.com/how-dogs-are-helping-cheetahs-1181950. Accessed on 24 December 2019.
2. Casciotti, Dana and Zuckerman, Diana. The Benefits of Pets for Human Health. Available at: http://www.center4research.org/benefits-pets-human-health/. Accessed on 24 December 2019.
3. About Pets & People. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/health-benefits/index.html. Accessed on 24
4. 5 Life-Changing Ways Your Pet Can Improve Your Health. Available at: https://www.onegreenplanet.org/animalsandnature/ife-changing-ways-your-pet-can-improve-your-health/. Accessed on 24 December 2019.