Pets – More Than Just Companions
If you’ve ever had a pet, you understand unconditional love. There’s nothing like the feeling of being greeted by an animal who loves you no matter what. Pets are one of life’s great joys.
They may also be the secret to living a happier, healthier – and perhaps even longer – life.
Our relationship with household pets may have begun as a practical matter – dogs helped us hunt, and cats helped keep pests under control – but that relationship has grown into something much bigger. And something that may enhance your health in ways you hadn’t imagined.
Have you ever noticed how calming spending time with your pet can be? That’s not just an impression.
Scientists at the State University of New York in Buffalo studied people’s physical reaction to their pets. They discovered that people with pets tend to have lower resting heart rates and blood pressure. And their heart rates and blood pressure increase less than non-owners when they’re faced with stress.1
An Australian study found that pet owners had fewer risk factors for heart trouble than non-pet owners.2
Canadian researchers discovered that pet owners tend to be more active and socially engaged than non-owners.3
And a study at the University of California showed that pet owners need a doctor’s care less often than non-owners when faced with stressful situations.4
In other words, pets appear to improve both health and quality of life.
Other research points to even more benefits of having a pet. For example…
- Pets may make grief easier to bear.5
- Pets may ease the burden of mental confusion.6
- Pets may decrease your need for medication and lower your health care costs.7
Plus, a pet may help you stay more active, feel less anxious and less lonely.8
All in all, having a pet looks like a pretty smart investment in your health. And having a pet may be good for more than just you.
An Australian team found that pet ownership increased overall social contact… and the perception of neighborhood friendliness. This resulted in more social interaction within the pet owners’ entire neighborhoods.9
So there are lots of good reasons to have a pet. But which pet is right for you?
That’s a very complex question. Different pets require different levels of care. And may provide somewhat different benefits.
For example, Macaws are affectionate and engaging. But they can live over 50 years and need lots of attention. Bringing home a macaw is a little like getting married.
Dogs are also affectionate and engaging. But they require less attention. And since they need to be walked, a dog is more likely to help you exercise and interact with neighbors.
When choosing a pet, consider the pet’s needs – and yours. The best pet is always the one that fits best into your life.
Best Life Herbals Wellness Team
1 Allen K, et al. Cardiovascular reactivity and the presence of pets, friends, and spouses: the truth about cats and dogs. Psychosom Med. 2002 Sep-Oct;64(5):727-39.
2 Anderson WP, et al. Pet ownership and risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Med J Aust. 1992 Sep 7;157(5):298-301.
3 Raina P, et al. Influence of companion animals on the physical and psychological health of older people: an analysis of a one-year longitudinal study. J Am Geriatr Soc. 1999 Mar;47(3):323-9.
4 Siegel JM. Stressful Life Events and Use of Physician Services Among the Elderly: The Moderating Role of Pet Ownership. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 58, No. 6, 1081-1086, 1990.
5 Akiyama H, et al. Pet Ownership and Health Status During Bereavement. OMEGA–Journal of Death and Dying. Volume 17, Number 2, 1986-87, Pages 187 – 193,
6 Filan SL and Llewellyn-Jones RH. Animal-assisted therapy for dementia: a review of the literature. Int Psychogeriatr. 2006 Dec;18(4):597-611. Epub 2006 Apr 26.
7 Geisler AM. Companion animals in palliative care: stories from the bedside. Am J Hosp Palliat Care. 2004 Jul-Aug;21(4):285-8.
8 Jennings LB. Potential benefits of pet ownership in health promotion. J Holist Nurs. 1997 Dec;15(4):358-72.
9 Wood L, et al. The pet connection: pets as a conduit for social capital? Soc Sci Med. 2005 Sep;61(6):1159-73. Epub 2005 Mar 3.