Essay: Benefits of Owning a Pet
An Essay by Jeannine Moga, MSW, LGSW
Most people read and hear regularly about the importance of staying healthy and living longer through diet and exercise. While it’s definitely smart to follow that advice, you can do something else to help keep your mind and body in optimum condition. Connect with a critter — it goes a long way toward making you happy and healthy.
Studies have shown that forming a relationship with an animal can have important health and psychological benefits. Owning a pet or interacting regularly with animals can lower humans’ blood pressure, reduce anxiety and depression, and increase their social interaction. People who have dogs also tend to get more exercise from regular walks.
It doesn’t really matter what kind of pet you have, whether it’s a cat or a dog, a fish or a ferret, an iguana or a horse. What’s important is developing a relationship with an animal. Having a pet often provides people with a reason for enjoying life and connecting with others.
This can be especially critical for older adults, who sometimes get socially isolated or struggle with finding a sense of purpose. It commonly happens after seniors retire, their spouse dies, their children and grandchildren grow up, or their families move away.
Owning a pet serves as a wonderful way to rediscover a sense of purpose. It helps people feel needed and wanted. After all, most people can’t help but smile when their dog greets them with their tail wagging or their cat curls up cozily on their lap.
Providing for an animal’s needs by going to the pet store or taking a dog for a walk helps reduce seniors’ social isolation by encouraging them to get out into the world. They may meet new friends at a dog park or at the pet store when they go to buy more birdseed.
If a cat or dog is too expensive or needy, consider a more low-maintenance pet like a fish. Even these critters can provide mental and physical benefits. A study at Purdue University found that people with Alzheimer’s disease are calmer, focus better on eating, and digest their food more easily when they eat their meals in front of a fish tank.
However, before buying or adopting a pet, be sure to educate yourself about the animal’s specific needs for maintaining their health and wellness. You don’t want to take on more than you bargained for.
If you aren’t ready to commit to taking an animal into your home — it’s too expensive or too much of a commitment — there are other ways to benefit from the animal/human connection. Head into nature and look for birds or other wildlife. Another option is volunteering at an animal shelter or pet sitting for neighbors or family members who are going on vacation.
Animals are calming, accepting friends that offer unconditional love and kindness, as well as many health benefits. So think about bringing a pet into your life. You won’t regret it.
Jeannine Moga, MSW, LGSW, is director of the Social Work Program at the University of Minnesota’s Veterinary Medical Center. May 2007
There are many advantages and disadvantages of owning a pet. The latter plays an important role as companion to its owner. Dogs and cats in particular are considered very close to humans and have been domesticated for thousands of years. They no longer live in the wild but amidst human habitats. These animals can form very close bond with their human owners and in fact dogs are even known as men's best friend. Dog owners would tell you how their best friend would snuggle up close to them for comfort and follow them everywhere and know well their routines such as feeding time and the time when their owners return from work. Experts say that pets are very therapeutic and can even prolong the lives of human being, especially elderly folk or these widowed and living alone. Even young children and the recluse respond well to animals rather than their human companions.
Walking one's dog keeps one in shape. Since these four-legged creatures need lots of exercise to keep them fit and healthy, most do owners have to allocate time daily to walk or jog with them. This not only provides the opportunity for pet owners to establish close contact with their dogs, it also force them to exercise and keep themselves fit in the process.
Apart from being a source of comfort and constant companion, a dog in particular would lay down its life for its master or mistress. There are countless stories of how dogs have warned their owners of an impending disaster such as fire, accidents, break-ins and eventually saved their lives. Dogs are also kept to provide security for the home front against intruders and robbers. Service dogs and sniffer dogs are used to extensively in the west such as America, United Kingdom and Netherlands among others. Service dogs such as Labradors and Golden Retriever are trained to assist the blind and elderly to help them with basic tasks such as crossing the street, answering the phone, collecting the mail and others. Sniffer dogs are used by the Customs Unit and the police force has a Police Canine Unit that has dogs specially trained to detect drugs and other dangerous substances like bombs.
The disadvantages of having pets relate mostly to responsibility of caring for them. Pet owners must discharge their duties responsibly by feeding these animals under their care with proper food, exercising them and ensuring they get medical treatment as well as the required yearly vaccination. There are many irresponsible pet owners who do not feed their dogs and cats, in particular, on time as well as ensuring these animals are taken for walks, bathed regularly and taken to the vet when they require medical treatment. We see, read and hear many sad stories of dogs and cats being abandoned as soon as the owner feels the animals have outlived their usefulness. Many are abused and ill treated.
Pet owners must ensure the surroundings are kept clean by collecting and disposing of animal waste properly. There are many complaints we read in the newspapers of how neighbors are exposed to the stench from animal waste as well as dogs being chained up for long hours and hence, bark incessantly creating nuisance and discomfort in the neighborhood.
Hence, there are more advantages than disadvantages of owning a pet as the animal plays an important role in providing companionship and comfort for the owners.