Ask the owner of any pet — it could be a dog or a cat, a fish or bird, or even some kind of reptile or rodent — if they believe that their pet is an integral part of the family, and the answer will almost always be in the affirmative. Many of those same pet owners will also be happy to add that not only is their pet a valued family member, but it is a near-equal contributor to the household. While pets require regular veterinary care and must be fed and properly looked after, most owners understand that their pets more than make up for any costs they incur through playful social interaction and, in many cases, a willingness to engage in the kind of outright silliness that is so wonderfully entertaining.
In speaking with pet owners, it is not hard to figure out why domesticated animals have been welcomed into their homes. The benefits most often referenced by pet owners, however, tend to leave one key component out according to The Hospital Group: Pets are able to improve the health and wellness of their owners in a multitude of ways, resulting in benefits that include improved physical, psychological and social well being. Even though many pet owners may be unaware of the role their pets are playing in improved health and wellness, perhaps it is a subconscious understanding of this benefit that has led to the consistent increases in pet ownership over the years.
Of the most interesting components regarding the health benefits induced by pet ownership, the diversity of the impact generated by different kinds of pets ranked quite highly in the minds of researchers. Dogs, for instance, were the pet most likely to generate the greatest level of physical health improvement, a fact that seems fairly obvious given a dog’s need to be walked on a regular basis, not to mention the fact that a dog’s general love of physical activity seems to be quite clearly infectious.
While the fact that improved physical health was a benefit of dog ownership was easily predicted, it was something of a surprise that dogs may also be responsible for reducing anxiety in pet owners, particularly children. Though further research is required to confirm this possibility, researchers believe that interacting with a dog has a physiological effect in which cortisol production is reduced through the release of oxytocin, a powerful chemical in the brain that results in a wide range positive effects.
Dogs are not the only kind of pet to cause a positive physiological response in their owners, as cats seem to be quite effective in improving health as well. The low frequency of a cat’s purr, which often sits between 25 Hz and 50 Hz, is believed to contribute to lowering blood pressure, improving bone density and reducing aches and pains. A purring cat has long been believed to be an excellent stress reliever as well, thereby providing cat owners with a wealth of valuable health benefits.
The Hospital Group was quick to note that there is still a great deal of research that must be done in the future in order to fully understand the many ways in which pet ownership results in positive health and wellness outcomes. While this may be the case, it seems quite evident that pet ownership is a wholly positive experience and that pet owners are more than justified in referring to their pets as family members entirely deserving of continued love, care and affection. Households that do not have a pet may believe they are saving on the general costs associated with pet food and veterinary care, but it seems quite likely that pet ownership comes with the kind of greatly improved health and well being that is simply priceless.