© Denise Tibbey 2016

The joys of having a pet and its health benefits

​I wanted to write this post as a tribute to my cats especially Amber my main sidekick!  I have always been an animal aficionado and when I lived in the UK I had helped a bit with associations and I had 2 cats of my own.  But when I moved to Spain the plight of animals here became a concern for me.  The welfare of animals in general is held in lower regards than in the UK.  Before long myself along with some colleagues set up an animal association.  Along the way I started to care for certain cats in difficult circumstances and some of those ended up coming to live with me.

 

But for all the voluntary work I have done I have been paid back tenfold with the love I get from my pets.  When I became sick I was unable to leave the house regularly and that is when my furry friends really helped me get through my worst days.  They were always there for me no matter what.  Amber my particular sidekick sat with me through all the tears and laughter.  Just having her around gave me a great deal of happiness and lifted my spirits.

 

So what does having pets do for us?

 

Studies have also found that:

  • Pet owners are less likely to suffer from depression than those without pets.

  • People with dogs have lower blood pressure in stressful situations than those without pets. One study even found that when people with borderline hypertension adopted dogs from a shelter, their blood pressure declined significantly within five months.

  • Playing with a dog or cat can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine, which calm and relax.

  • Pet owners have lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels, which are indicators of heart disease, than those without pets.

  • Heart attack patients with dogs survive longer than those without dogs.

  • Pet owners over age 65 make 30 percent fewer visits to their doctors than those without pets.

Psychologists at Miami University and St. Louis University say that the emotional benefits of cats can equal that of human friendship.  They carried out a 3 experiment and found the following;

 

In part one, 217 questionnaires looked at variables such as self-esteem, loneliness, illness, depression and activity level.  They found that pet owners scored far better overall, demonstrating less lonely tendencies and higher self-esteem.

 

56 dog owners answered identical questionnaires to part one and they found that those who related well to their dogs experienced the greatest emotional returns.  Furthermore, there was evidence that people who enjoyed greater benefits from owning pets were also closer to other important people in their lives and received more support overall support from them.

 

Section three of the experiment asked 97 undergraduate students to write about a socially alienating experience and then write about a favourite friend or pet. Their feelings of exclusion were as remedied by passages about their pets as by those who focussed on their friends.

 

For elderly people also having a pet can lower their stress levels, give them a sense of purpose and companionship all of which improve overall well being on both a physical and emotional level.  Also studies have found reduced pain levels in elderly people who owned pets.

 

The psychological and physical benefits of having a pet are striking and I for one am pleased that I have my pets.  They have helped me through some of my worst moments.  Of course, having a pet requires responsibility and if you do not have the time for them then it is not such a good idea to have one.  As just like us they need company too.  But if you have the time then the rewards for both our physical and emotional wellbeing make it worth it.  So I would like to say a big thank you to my Amber and my furry companions for bringing me better health and happiness.

 

 

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