How Pets Help You Live LongerPublished December 15, 2008
It's interesting that the word 'pet' -which means 'to touch'- is used to refer to a domesticated animal who lives in our home. Especially since one of the benefits of pet ownership, that is mentioned in numerous studies, are those obtained through the touching of our pets and the closeness of the relationship with them.
The American Association of Human-Animal Bond Veterinarians (AAH-ABV) defines the bond that people have with their pets in part as, "The human-animal bond is a mutually beneficial and dynamic relationship between people and other animals." Although this relationship has probably existed for as long as mankind has domesticated animals, it has been brought to more people's attention during several recent disasters.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the California wildfires, numerous news reports showed pet owners taking considerable risks to try and save their pets. Mary Moore, of Fallbrook, CA evacuated her home during the October 2007 San Diego wildfires with four dogs, a couple of cats and several reptiles. She said simply, "These pets are all a part of our family and I wasn't going to leave them behind."
Numerous research studies and polls in the United States, Great Britain and Australia have all shown that pet owners believe their pets are good for them physically, mentally and emotionally, and scientific research has shown the pet owners to be correct.
The British Market Research Bureau (BMRB) conducted research in October 2002 for the Pet Care Trust, an organization that promotes responsible pet ownership, and found there were multiple reasons why pet owners felt their pets were good for them.
-75 percent said their pets made them laugh and thereby contributed to better mental health
-67 percent said their pets offered unconditional love
-66 percent said their pets provided companionship and alleviated loneliness
-64 percent said their pets reduced stress and made them feel more relaxed
Another study looked at the health benefits provided by pets. The Baker Medical Research Institute in Australia conducted a large-scale study of over 5,000 people and found that in general, pet owners had lower blood pressure levels than people who did not own pets. Other studies have shown that pet owners heal better and more quickly after surgery and have reduced risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
The bond pet owners have with their pets is a strong one. The American Pet Products Manufacturers Association (APPMA) found:
-21 percent of pet owners encouraged their pet to sleep in their bed
-44 percent said their pet sleeps in their bed and probably gets more of the bed than themselves
-66 percent said they would not date someone who dislikes their pet
Pets are Good for Kids, Too
The benefits are not just for adults; children benefit from pet ownership and from exposure to pet animals. In the BMRB study, pet owning parents felt that owning a pet taught their children kindness and responsibility.
Alan M. Beck, Sc.D., of the School of Veterinary Medicine at Purdue University, a long-time researcher in the field of the human-animal bond, and Anthony Rud Jr., of the College of Education at Purdue University, conducted a survey of elementary school teachers about pets in the classroom.
They discovered that more than a quarter of the classrooms had animals in the classroom and that the teachers felt that the animals served to motivate the students to work well and behave in ways that would be better for the animals. This in general resulted in better behavior in the classroom. Caring for the animals also provided opportunities for the children to be caregivers and a chance to learn responsibility.
Liz Palika is the award winning author of more than 50 books. Her latest is "The Howell Book of Dogs" (Wiley & Sons). She has also been published in Dog World, Dog Fancy, AKCGazette, Newsweek, and TheSaturday Evening Post. For more on her work, go to www.lizpalika.com. Palika is also a certified dog trainer and behavioral consultant. See www.kindredspiritsk9.com.
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