Companion animals such as cats, dogs, horses, birds and fish can have great impact on one’s wellbeing, both physically and psychologically. Pet owners will surely confirm the impact their pet has on them. This article will discuss different ways animals can contribute in enhancing one’s health.
Animals help you reduce your blood pressure. A study in 2002, measured how participants blood pressure change during a stressful event (mathematics exercise), and how the results defer between dog or cat owners and non-pet owners. Results revealed that people with pets had lower and less spikes in their blood pressure, and both their heart rate and blood pressure returned normal more quickly. In a similar study blood pressure, heart rate, and behavioural distress were measured in children between the age of 3 and 6, during regular physical check-ups. In one visit, a dog “ that is not related to the subject” was present, and in another visit the dog was not present. Results indicate that children had lower heart rates, better blood pressure measures, and less behavioural distress when the dog was present.
Animals can also be used for companionship. Studies indicate that dog therapy can help children with mental or developmental disorders, people with epilepsy, PTSD or any other disability such as being blind or deaf or even elderly individuals who don’t have the energy to have their own pet. Interaction with dogs in therapy can help children with autism over-come developmental disorders by increasing their focus, increasing their interactions, and reducing the level of pain and anxiety among children and adults in a hospitalization setting.
Animals benefit one’s physical health. Dogs can substitute as a personal trainer because they encourage you to walk more. A study in USA monitored people’ walking habits over a 3 year period; it shows dog owners who take their dogs for a walk spend more time walking than people walking alone.
If you are looking for non-traditional way to strengthen your muscles or lose weight, owning a horse may be the thing you need. Alison Stout, DO, of the Evergreen Health Sport & Spine Center in UK explains “Horseback riding really works the core muscles that stabilize the trunk, the abdominal, back, and pelvic muscles. It’s not just about the strength of the core, but the coordination and stability of it as well. The more you ride, the more the body learns to move with the horse.” Horses are also used with children.
The development of technology has made it easy for every household to have friendly electronic devices. This helped children enhance their cognitive skills and development of analytical skills. However the concern is that those children are becoming more skillful in technological sense than in real life related skills. Having a pet will definitely help in the improvement of these skills as studies show that pet owners are more extraverted. Having to feed, clean and take care of a pet will also help teach the child responsibility. This can also be turned to a family activity, with each member volunteering to do a task.
Research on the impact animals have on humans resulted in the formation of different forms of therapies such as (AAT) animal assisted therapy, (PFT) pet facilitated therapy, Equine Assisted psychotherapy or (DAT) dolphin assisted therapy. In these therapies, animals are used as a form of treatment, they help patients enhance their social, emotional, or cognitive functions. More research is needed in the area, but overall patients reveal great level of improvement.
With all that said, I personally adopted a cat recently. It’s a Persian black cat with yellow eyes. Because was living in the street for a while, he was a bit aggressive at first. It was hard for me to give him a bath or even catch him without fearing his scratch! It took him a while to get adjusted to the place. After few months he became more friendly, going home after a busy day, his company is always enjoyable, he makes me laugh with his curiosity. I would like to know if you had a good experience with a pet and whether you really witnessed his impact on you? I personally did! What about you ?
- Johnson RA (2011). Animal-assisted interventions in health care contexts. In McCardle P, McCune S, Griffin JA & Maholmes V (Eds.), How animals affect us (pp. 183-192). Washington D.C.: American Psychological Association.
- Allen K, Blascovich J, Mendes WB (2002). Cardiovascular reactivity and the presence of pets, friends, and spouses: the truth about cats and dogs.
- Nagengast SL, Baun MM, Megel M, Leibowitz JM (1997). The effects of the presence of a companion animal on physiological arousal and behavioral distress in children during a physical examination. J Pediatr Nurs. Dec;12(6):323-30.