I’m a cat person. I’ve always had a cat and can’t image my home without one. My cat isn’t my pet, it’s a member of my family. I love coming home and having my boy run up to greet me, rubbing against my legs and looking up at me with his big wide eyes that say he missed me. No matter how difficult my day has been, I forget it all about it when I see his eager face.
And I’m not unique with how I feel. The majority of people with pets feel a close bond with them, like they are their children. We do tend to treat our “children” extremely well, often to the point of beyond spoiled. We pamper them, give in to their every whim and worry about them if we’ll be home late past their feed time. Our pets live in loving homes, coddled and cared for.
The benefits to our pets are obvious. But what about the benefits to us, especially as we age? Should we have a pet as we get older, especially if we are living alone?
The 6 reasons why having a pet improves our lives include:
Animals provide us with a sense of being wanted and needed. We feel we are not alone when we are with them. Pets give us someone to talk to, especially when we are sad or stressed. We tell our pets things we wouldn’t tell anyone else. They provide us with feelings of trust and security that are often hard to find from others.
Research shows overwhelming benefits to both our mental and physical health from having pets. For example, this study found that owning a cat may reduce your chances of having a heart attack by one-third! Having a pet encourages us to stay healthy so we are there for them.
Pet owners tend to visit their doctor regularly, take less medicine and recover quicker from illnesses.
This has the potential to reduce health care costs considerably.
Our physical contact with our pets is calming. Animals seem to sense our moods and provide comfort exactly when we need it. They help us manage stress by lowering our blood pressure and pulse rate from the hugging and stroking.
Hugging provides our bodies with oxytocin, a stress-reducing hormone that lowers blood pressure and heart rate.
And stroking an animal boosts our serotonin and dopamine levels, which also helps lower our blood pressure and heart rate.
Animals help people, especially seniors, to focus on something other than their physical problems and any negativity about aging. Pets provide us with a daily routine, giving us something to nurture and care for. And this give our days structure and activities to do each day with feedings at set times, walks, brushings and playtimes. This helps give meaning to our days and a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day.
Interacting with our pets them brightens up our lives. They give us something to look forward to, an easy means of entertainment as well as joy, happiness, and a sense of responsibility. All of this and the fact that we are able to care for them, as well as care for ourselves, helps us build our self-esteem and self-confidence.
Many people prefer pets to friends, as we can be more open and honest with our pets since we don’t fear any repercussions or consequences flowing from our behavior. In addition to love, pets make us feel needed and wanted. They distract us from our daily challenges, putting us into a different reality, which reduces the depression from the tension and stress of our daily lives.
It turns out that the benefits of having a pet are very positive for us as well as for our pets. With condos and apartments, not to mention the many retirement homes that are adopting a pet-friendly policy, there is no reason by we call can’t benefit from sharing our lives with a pet.
And for those that are unsure if a pet would work in your lives, you can always contact your local SPCA and inquire about short-term foster care. This will give you the experience of having a pet, as well as providing a much needed community service to those unfortunate pets that desperately need a loving home as they patiently wait for their “forever home.”
Do you have a cat or a dog? What do you love most about them? What do you think are the benefits of owning a pet at our age? Please join the conversation and “like” and share this article to keep the discussion going!