There are lots of different reasons why humans decide to take ownership of a pet. However, one of the biggest benefits of having your very own furry, feathered or scaly little friend is the emotional benefits that it can provide.
Owning a pet is enjoyable, right? After all, why else would we spend our hard-earned dollars on keeping them warm, comfortable and happy? Coming home from work and seeing the welcoming face of your pet – your rabbit or goldfish is smiling on the inside, we are certain of it! – can be a delight after a stressful day at work or school. Spending time with your pet is proven to lower your stress levels, which is great for your physical health. However, reduced stress is good for your emotional wellbeing too as it makes you calmer and more patient. You will also sleep better, which is important as insomnia has been linked to low moods, irritability and depression. If you aren’t stressed out, you will also be a much nicer person to be around.
Having a pet also provides you with more social opportunities. This is a particularly important benefit for some introverted people who may find it difficult to start and maintain a conversation with new people. Dog parks are a hotspot for meeting new people, as having a pet in common can be a great ice-breaker. Just make sure that your canine pal is suitably socialized before you go, as breaking up bad pet behavior may not be the best start to making new friends! Training classes are also a fantastic way of meeting like-minded people.
Obviously, not all pets need to be walked or trained, and aside from meeting other animal-lovers at your veterinary offices, you may feel that the social opportunities offered by pet ownership are limited. This doesn’t have to be the case. Owning a pet is a specialized responsibility and as such, there are dozens of online communities of people who may have the same species of pet as you sharing experiences over the internet. Not only are they hives of useful information, but many people within them often arrange for face-to-face meeting, giving you the opportunity to meet a variety of new people.
Even if you decide that the social side of pet ownership isn’t for you, there is something else that a pet can offer that is crucial for your emotional wellbeing and happiness – companionship. Human beings were not created to live alone, and even those of us who enjoy our own company eventually tire of it. Even though they are unable to talk back, pets provide someone to talk to and the reassurance of someone else in your home.
Animals are often taken into hospitals and nursing homes in a treatment known as “Animal-assisted Therapy” (AAT) or “Pet-facilitated Therapy” (PFT). Spending time with a pet can help patients or residents to feel the benefit some of the benefits of pet ownership, without needing to make a commitment to their full-time care.
A sense of purpose
A pet can also provide an owner with a sense of purpose. Like a small child, a pet relies on his owner for shelter, food, water and love. Caring for a pet, whether it is as small as a fish or as large as a horse, requires commitment and can create a sense of routine into the life of a person who may not otherwise have one.
Take a break
Similarly, pet ownership can force us to take a break from our whirlwind lives and to live in the present, even if just for a few moments at a time. In an era where many of us rush between a never-ending stream of commitments – work, children, gym, family etc – pets have no such pressures. With no concept of what it is to be busy, your dog doesn’t care if it’s not walkies time, and your cat doesn’t care if you should be folding laundry. By tending to our pets when they demand attention, it can give us the time we need to slow down our thoughts and live in the moment, rather than worrying about everything else that we still need to do.
Reduced risk of depression
Depression is a serious condition that can have a hugely detrimental effect throughout our lives. However, owning a pet has been shown to drastically reduce the likelihood of depression and other related conditions. There are a number of reasons for this. Owning a pet provides a valuable distraction when negative thoughts threaten to overwhelm us, they give us unconditional love and acceptance and they make us responsible for them. We don’t want to let them down and so are more likely to overcome depressive behaviors in order to provide for them.
Owning a pet can help you to look after your emotional health and fill a hole in your home or heart that you may not even realise you had. When it comes to pet ownership, what’s not to love?