Why loving your pets is so good for you and what you can do in return.
By Kitty Von Tastique
Anyone who owns a treasured pet can be in little doubt about the immediate benefits they can bring: companionship, entertainment and the ability to provide unconditional love to even the prickliest of human purrsonalities.
However, there are also loads of physical, psychological and social health reasons that loving your furbabies can be so, so good for you.
Physical reasons to love our pets!
Number 1: Pets can help reduce stress and lower blood pressure
In a 2002 study, people with dogs and cats had lower resting heart rates and blood pressure, they had less spikes in heart rate under stress and their heart rates and blood pressure returned to normal more quickly. Other studies have shown that just stroking your pet can lower blood pressure and cholesterol and it may also ease anxiety in children. Pet owners also had improved recovery rates after heart surgery.
Number 2: Increased physical activity
Pet owners (especially those with dogs) are more physically active and have a reduced risk of obesity. Pets help motivate us to get up and go outdoors on a more regular basis, regardless of the weather. My cats often get me to stop staring at a screen to play with them or feed them (who needs to use Pomodoro?) lol!
Number 3: Immune system benefits
Children who grow up with pets are less likely to develop allergies and exposure during infancy can strengthen the immune system. Children with pets are less likely to miss days of school due to illness.
Psychological Reasons to love your furbaby!
Number 1: A reduction in loneliness, depression and stress
Pet owners (including teens) are less likely to experience loneliness and depression. They also appear to cope with grief, stress and loss better as well. Pets also give us a sense of purpose.
Number 2: They are social ‘wing men’
Pets help us meet other people. They help improve our social skills and are great ‘wing men’ to help us initiate conversations with strangers.
Number 3: They care!
Whenever we are down or sick they look after us in the way that only they can. Having a furry bundle of love snuggle in beside you when you’re under the weather or home alone is enough to bring back the sunshine to anyone’s day!
Ways of giving back to our furr-ever friends:
Number 1: Time
Giving our furry friends our time is the number one thing we can do to show we care. Dialling back our screen time and increasing time with our pets, is a great way to share the love.
Number 2: Learn to speak their ‘language’
Pets communicate a lot differently to us, so try to learn some of their cues. Some examples are that cats consider you staring into their eyes a confrontational and perhaps hostile move, so by including lots of slow blinks when you look lovingly into their eyes, you’re actually saying “I care and I’m not here to pick a fight”. In a similar way, dogs consider it rude to approach in a straight line or make eye contact. Dogs prefer you to approach in an arc and avoid staring them straight in the eye.
Number 3: Don’t judge them too harshly
Our pets may seem like furry mini-me’s but really they are just doing their best to fit in with us humans, who are a completely different species. When they seemingly fail to meet our high expectations it’s important to realise that nothing they do is in malice. Pets don’t think the same way that we do so it’s unfair to expect them to follow our rules 100% of the time.
At the end of the day it’s those furr-givable little furr-paws that make them three dimensional, unique and totally irreplaceable. For the huge amount of love we get in return, our unconditional love is the very least they deserve this Valentine’s Day.
You can check out my behind the scenes video from this furry photoshoot on my Kitty Von Tastique YouTube channel: http://tinyurl.com/gp5hojt
Australian Family Physician ‘The Pet Effect’
National Center For Health Research