I moved to Costa Rica from the States about 3 months ago to start a new life. I left all my material possessions behind, bringing just 3 suitcases and my 2 cats with me to the airport. As I checked in for my flight, I was almost brought to tears as the airport representative advised that I did not have all the required paperwork to allow my cats to travel with me. Long story short, I ended up being separated from my pets for almost three months.
Ten Health Benefits of Pets
Spending 3 months without my two cats allowed me to appreciate the psychological health benefits of pets. My cats had a way of soothing my nerves when I was stressed. They intuitively stuck close to my bedside during times of illness, as if they could somehow sense my physical unease and were trying to comfort me. They provided me with social interaction during some of my loneliest days. They also gave me a feeling of purpose because I alone was responsible for ensuring their well-being (probably what a new parent feels for a helpless newborn). These insights made me wonder about the other possible health benefits of pets. Below are ten benefits of having a pet in your life according to researchers:
- Pets can help reduce stress and blood pressure in their owners.
- Pet owners cope better with bereavement than people that do not own a pet.
- Cats can add an average of 10.3 years to people who have had one since childhood.
- Petting a dog increases levels of oxytocin, the mood-affecting neurotransmitter and “feel-good” hormone in the brain.
- Kids with pets in their homes develop a better understanding of non-verbal communication.
- Sharing your home with a pet can help prevent loneliness. Most humans consider their pet to be a companion, and one study found that 97% of pet owners talk to their pets.
- Pets can increase longevity in those who have suffered a heart attack.
- Pets can relax and improve the appetites of Alzheimer’s patients.
- Pets have been found to improve any disease condition that has a stress-related component to it.
- Regular contact with pets helping to speed recovery after illness.
Benefits of Having a Pet – Things to Consider
Despite all the wonderful health benefits of pets, I am a firm proponent of responsible pet ownership. If you are considering getting a pet, please make sure to do plenty of research before you bring one home. You really need to choose one whose personality, size and requirements fit your lifestyle. If you have allergies, don’t really have time to care for a pet, or are unsure that you will be a good pet owner, you can still enjoy the health benefits of pets in other ways, such as:
- Volunteering at an animal shelter.
- Playing with your family, friend’s and neighbor’s pets.
- Visiting a zoo or aquarium.
- Appreciating the animals that visit your own backyard (birds, squirrels, lizards, etc.)
- Watching animal shows on TV.
If you do believe that pet ownership is right for you and you want to experience the health benefits of pets for yourself, then please consider adopting one from an animal shelter instead of getting one from a pet store or a breeder. It’s much cheaper, of course, but you’ll also be helping to save a needy animal’s life.
I am thankful to finally have my two cats back with me, and I hope to continue enjoying the surprising health benefits of pets for many years to come.
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