Despite vicious battles between dog and cat owners, one thing is certain – everyone’s better off having a pet. Or better said, loving a pet. But, getting a pet is a decision that requires a great deal of maturity, just like when deciding on starting a family. A pet will be a lovely addition to your family, but you will be all that this bundle of joy has in the world. So the first question is – can you take on this responsibility?
Just because it is an animal and not a human being does not mean its life is not just as valuable and you will be fully responsible for this living creature. Especially in the first few months, like any baby, your dog or cat will need extra care, additional vet visits, etc. Can you commit to this? Can a pet fit your lifestyle? Are you willing to go through an adjustment period and dedicate time for training?
It might need special hypoallergenic food and you need to protect it from parasites and diseases. It is your responsibility to make sure it has all that it needs to be in optimal health. But most of all, you need to care for your pet. Make sure it is not spending long hours alone, injury-proof your home and give it love – as this is what you will be getting and in unlimited quantities.
So you are willing to take on this commitment, but you still have a few worries on your mind? Let’s address the most common ones.
Is it sanitary?
There’s been a lot of debate around disinfecting. Yet, we become weaker the more we disinfect our surroundings. Recent studies have shown that kids which grow up with pets have a better immune system than those who grow up in pet-free homes. When it comes to babies, women who had pets during their pregnancy had their babies exhibiting reduced risk of common allergies and asthma. Also, they were less likely to develop eczema. Additionally, dogs are bacteria-proof due to antibiotics naturally found in their saliva. By having dogs, we get exposed to a wider range of bacteria, which strengthens our immune system. Not surprisingly, studies have shown people with dogs get ill less often than those with cats or pet-free homes.
What if my pet ends up having behaviour issues?
The animal ultimately responds to you, even though this mostly applies to dogs. Animals manifest all that we feel within. So if you have fears, despite having a carefree air about you, your pet will sense it and likely be fearful. The same goes for repressed anger. Luckily, you can count on the precious advice of animal whisperers, such as Cesar Millan, showing us that even the most difficult problems, all coming from owners, can be solved.
So assuming you can take on the responsibility for a living creature, all you have to ask yourself is whether you are a cat or a dog person? If you opt for a dog, you still need to think carefully when choosing the breed. Consider the individual traits of each breed, for example if your choice for a dog is a beagle, ideally you don’t plan of having it stay home alone often as otherwise you have to be prepared find your home in an unrecognisable state, along with neighbour complaints of barking. But if your home is filled with kids, a playful beagle will be their sweetest companion as they are both smart and adorable playmates! Do your research and feel free to ask for advice from other pet owners and veterinarians.
Now, let’s talk about the wonders that having a pet will do for your emotional health.
1. Greater Sense of Wellbeing
Pets teach us perhaps the most important life lesson, to love expecting nothing in return, to love unconditionally. You will gain a best friend who will be there for you no matter what. Your pet will know if you feel blue even if you put on a smile for the rest of the world. You will gain such a friend and companion that the criteria for your human best friend will seriously increase, possibly to unreachable heights!
2. Decreasing Stress
Studies have shown that people with pets have lower blood pressure in stressful situations. And amazingly, it is not even necessary to pet them, as just by looking at fish in an aquarium will do the trick! Just by being around your pet has a Zen effect on you. Even one of the world’s most famous spiritual teachers and authors, Eckhart Tolle speaks of cats as “Zen Masters” and pets in general as “Guardians of Being”. And no one can disagree that they manage to keep millions of people sane!
3. Improving Mood
No matter how difficult your day has been, someone will be so happy to see you when you come home! Whether just by playing fetch with your dog or observing your cat, you will feel happier. As time goes by, you will learn to relax more as your heart rate will naturally slow down while petting your dog or cat. Considering they provide us with love, comfort and companionship, no wonder that owning a pet can help in dealing with depression. And guess what, they will also make you laugh!
4. Developing Empathy
A pet is bound to awaken nurturing qualities within the hardest of hearts. Studies have shown that children who grow up with pets tend to show greater levels of empathy compared to their pet-free counterparts. By learning to care for their pets, they also learn to care about other people’s feelings.
5. Helping Children Develop
Petting and cuddling is very soothing, giving comfort to children even with autism and attention deficit disorders. Owning a pet also enhances the owner’s self-esteem and will teach your child how to become a responsible adult. Caring for their pet along with the love and affection they gain from them makes an essential toolkit for any child’s healthy development.
6. Disease Detection
Animals can even detect illnesses due to resulting chemical changes within the owner’s body. Dogs especially can sniff many conditions, including cancer and higher blood pressure. Due to their natural ability to notice when the blood sugar levels of their diabetic owners fall and show it by changing behaviour, there are even organisations that train dogs to help diabetics! Also, your pet can warn you by cuddling up to the problematic area of your body, by moaning or even licking your hands.
7. Health Guardians and Natural Pain-Killers
It is a common fact that pet owners report fewer doctor visits than their pet-free counterparts. Not only that, but studies have shown that people with cats are less likely to suffer from strokes and heart attacks. Also, people with pets tend to recover better from heart attacks. After surgeries, many pet owners have reported being able to avoid taking additional pain-killers as cuddling up with their pets helped them ease the pain and discomfort. In this case, ‘love being the ultimate cure for everything’ is no myth.
Having a pet can encourage lovely interactions with other people – just by someone walking by who says ‘What a cute dog’ or through sharing your experiences with other pet owners. Consequently, people with pets are also less likely to report feeling lonely.
9. Improving Your Existing Relationships
Caring for a family pet not only enhances each family member’s emotional health individually but also deepens the connection within the entire family. Also, by helping you reduce anxiety in your everyday life, your pet is basically helping you to become an even better partner, parent, friend and even professional at work.
10. Sense of Meaning
By focusing on fulfilling your pet’s needs, you also end up feeling proud that you successfully provided for another living being that needs you to take care of it. A dog needs to be fed, cleaned and walked. A cat might not need walking, but grooming, exercise and play come into the equation instead. But this little angel is the one who ends up taking care of you, filling your heart with love and soothing your soul. And by thinking of your pet, you also gain a valuable distraction from your own problems.
Soulmate for life
The benefits of owning a pet are countless. Most importantly, animals provide us with a gift of this special connection. They are connected to nature and they live in the present moment, something we often forget due to everyday stress and worries. But owning a pet will help you realise an important thing in the most difficult situation – that things aren’t as bad as they seem. All you have to do is remember what truly matters, something our furry friends know so well!