Pet Ownership: Companionship and Something More
“Family pets, in particular dogs and cats, provide certain components of attachment that contribute to emotional and social well-being through the life cycle.” – Pat Sable
Archaeological evidence supports that for more than 30 thousand years, humankind has sought companionship with our four-legged friends. As our ancestors sat around large fires and celebrated the hunt, wolves came crawling out from the shadows to beg for scraps; and we welcomed their presence. In time, humans domesticated more animals and our relationships with them changed to one of mutual benefit. We provided care and food, while they provided companionship and, studies now show, something more.
Science has done some digging into the relationship shared between pets and their owners and have found that animals have the ability to help promote a healthier lifestyle and improve mental health, even for people with challenging disorders.
Of course, there’s still much research to be done on this topic, but the results so far are exciting and, if you were on the fence about pet ownership, perhaps the below will be ‘pros’ you can add to your list!
- Owning a dog means you’re more likely to get out and explore your local trails and parks, like those located right here in West 5; and as we all know, walking is one of the best things you can do for your physical and mental wellbeing!
- Even just petting a dog can help reduce blood pressure and improve cholesterol levels, while also relieving stress and anxiety.
- Dogs can influence social, emotional and cognitive development in children; and have been able to detect oncoming epileptic seizures or the presence of certain cancers.
- Dog ownership is associated with a 24% reduction in all causes of mortality; and, if someone has already suffered a heart attack or stroke, having a dog means they’re 31% less likely to die from cardiovascular disease. In fact, some cardiologists will actually prescribe a dog to their patient, if they believe their patient is capable of properly caring and providing for a dog, because of these benefits.
- Hearing a cat purr can certainly give you a warm and fuzzy feeling, but did you know that their purrs can actually help heal you? It’s true! Purring releases endorphins in both the cat and their owner, which lowers stress hormones and can help reduce blood pressure. In addition, cat purring tends to fall in the same frequency that’s been shown to aid in the healing of broken bones, joint and tendon repair, and wound healing!
- Cats tend to be lower maintenance pets, which means that there’s all the benefits of pet ownership, without a lot of the stress that can come with higher maintenance pets. They’re also happy to live in smaller houses or apartments, which make cats the perfect companion to come home to if you’re living in a pet-friendly community or building like Helio!
- Research has found that cat owners are more socially sensitive, trust other people more, and genuinely like other people more, than people who don’t own pets.
- The act of caregiving helps build healthy habits, and while a cat is a low maintenance pet, they still need to be fed and taken care of on a regular schedule! This helps cat owners create a routine to take care of their fuzzy little companion, no matter their mood. Caring for your pets can serve as a reminder to care for yourself, too!
- Perhaps one of the lowest maintenance pets you can introduce into your home are our finned friends! With maintenance largely consisting of routine feeding times and a deep clean of the tank once or twice a year, keeping an aquarium in your home is a good way to lower your stress levels and keep them that way. There’s something hypnotic and peaceful about fish tanks, which is why you’ll find them in a lot of high-stress environments like offices and hospitals!
- Keeping a healthy tank may actually help improve sleep quality, due to the quiet white noise the pumps and water produce.
- Studies have shown that the presence of a fish tank at home can improve mood, alertness and appetite in Alzheimer’s patients, while also reducing aggressive behaviour. The same can be said about children who may struggle with behavioural issues or hyperactivity disorders!
- Small mammals are anything from mice to guinea pigs or rabbits, and come with their own benefits and hurdles! Depending on the species you decide to go with, there will be different recommendations on space needed, diets, and handling; but rest assured that any small mammal you welcome into your home will find a way into your heart!
- In one study, stressed adults were asked to pet a rabbit and their toy counterparts; and while the toy had no effect, all participants (regardless of whether they initially said they liked animals) agreed that their anxiety was reduced when petting the living creature.
- Research has also shown that when children with autism had a guinea pig in the classroom, they were more social with their peers, smiled and laughed more, and showed fewer signs of stress!
For thousands of years, humankind has sought companionship with our fluffy, four-legged friends; and, now, roughly 73% of Canadian households have a pet – 38% of which have a cat and 35% have a dog! And some of these households are right here in West 5. With lush green spaces and trails that are perfect for exploring, homes that encourage pet ownership and our very own Oak West Animal Clinic on site, the West 5 community is proud to welcome – and care for – our beloved pets.
Of course, it’s important to remember that a pet – no matter how small or low maintenance – is a commitment. If you’re interested in the benefits pet ownership can provide, first be sure to take the time to research and consider what pet may be best suited for you and your lifestyle.