Animals have a way of bringing joy into our lives and making us smile, no matter your age. About half the households in the U.S. are pet owners because of this.
The holiday season is the most popular time that pets are brought home as gifts. People are well-intentioned when they do this and need to remember it’s a big commitment and responsibility. Training, particularly for dogs, is important to bring out the best in them. They interpret our behavior, understand our energy and will respond to that energy.
My brother, sister and I were exposed to many different animals growing up because our dad was a very curious science teacher. The notorious “pets” were a rabbit, a bird, the iguana, a black snake and baby alligator. I was not a fan of the amphibians. The black snake escaped from its cage and slipped into a floor AC vent, never to be seen again. I have no idea why or where my dad even got the baby alligator…but my mom made him get rid of it immediately.
At my home there are two large dogs and two adopted cats right now; having these pets is a blessing most days, and we’re lucky not having to worry about costs and the time commitment. There are many proven health benefits for people, including physical, mental and emotional improvements with pets around. The benefits outweigh any negatives in my opinion.
My fellow animal lovers will agree with these five great reasons to open your home to a furry friend (or any type of pet), and why doing so can be what the doctor ordered.
1. A pet can be your personal trainer. Dogs need to be exercised on a daily basis. A fenced yard really is not enough. Doing activities with them is a treat and movement is healthy for both of you. You can take them walking, hiking, jogging, swimming, and even along for a bike ride. Cats need movement too and that can be through interactive play if they are kept indoors.
2. A pet is good for your heart. Petting an animal has a calming effect and decreases your cortisol level (stress hormone). They fill your heart with love and help reduce risks such as a heart attack. According to the CDC – pets can help reduce your blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
3. Pets give you a sense of purpose. You establish an emotional bond with them like a family member. Taking care of them does require responsibility and that can give you a sense of value and importance. It also adds a positive focus to your life. An added bonus – allowing your children to help take care of the pets is great way to teach them about empathy along with responsibility.
4. Pets provide companionship. They offer unconditional love, and this can help reduce loneliness and boost your overall mood. Animal-assisted therapy is very popular with nursing homes and hospitals too. When I was young, I brought my dog to a nursing home near our neighborhood so the residents could pet her. It made them all smile and had a big impact. She wasn’t “certified” officially, but the staff allowed us in anyway.
5. Pets are a great way to bond with others. Pets are social facilitators. They provide common ground to interact with others and help develop friendships. There’s the empathy factor in play again. And you can’t neglect a smiling stranger when they ask about your pet. One of my dogs is a Great Pyrenees and she’s a rock star when we take her out in public. People come up to us and ask questions, pet her, hug her and even take pictures with her.
Remember that animals don’t care about what you have or what you look like. They accept you for who you are. What’s not to love about that?