Pets are good for people of all ages – while this has been “common knowledge” for a long time, recent science backs it up. For example, people with pets tend to have lower heart rates, lower blood pressure, and lower risk of heart disease. It’s not magic, though it feels that way when my dog greets me at the door. Pets encourage extra activity, of which even small amounts is shown to be beneficial. But in addition to any change in a physical lifestyle, pets offer emotional support hat is increasingly being shown to impact our mental health and well being. And mental well being may be just as important to better health outcomes and a higher quality of life.
Caring for an animal, whether its fluffy or feathery, whether it needs walks or just sits in a tank, makes us less depressed and anxious. Caring for a living creature can provide additional meaning to our lives. Any they are just plain fun – they can make us laugh, warm us up on a cold night, fascinate us with their color and movement. They become family…according to a Harris Poll in 2015, 95% of pet owners consider them members of the family.
Not all pets are for all people, however. They are a great responsibility; you have to make a commitment at a minimum to the feeding and cleanliness of their surroundings, and for some pets, out of the house activities like walking. If you travel for long periods of time, or move to different locations seasonally, you must either arrange for care or transport your pets. Fortunately there are a lot of pet care resources like care.com and rover.com, who can help with in-home care, dog walking, or pet sitting when you need it. One significant issue to consider however is if you are immunocompromised; discuss with your doctor whether there are any concerns with particular species of pets. Cleanliness in the house can also be aided with self-cleaning litterboxes and self-dispensing pet feeders.
Having animals nearby doesn’t always mean in in-home pet; maybe a simple bird feeder outside your window, a hummingbird feeder hanging nearby, or a squirrel feeder on a nearby tree to distract them from your birds. For those without access to the outdoors or living in places with a no pet policy there may be opportunities to get involved with pet therapy.
Regardless of whether you make a commitment to a pet living with you or just get outside to listen to the chirping birds, animals can have a beneficial impact on your health and quality of life. And it goes both ways – many pets love being cuddled by you!