In the UK we are a nation of pet lovers. According to the PFMA’s Pet Population report, in 2014 24% of households had a dog and 17% of households had a cat, which adds up to a combined total of 17 million cats and dogs in the UK.
Research has shown that pets have been proven to benefit human health both inside and out.
Despite endless games of tug-of-war trying to reclaim our shoes, the occasional filling of holes and scratches in the wall and of course having to constantly cleaning up dirty paw prints, pets have actually been proven to benefit humans mentally.
For example, studies have shown that having a pet reduces depression and pet owners are generally happier than those without pets.
There have also been many cases where a pet, particularly a cat or dog, have help children with learning difficulties. Having a pet forces a routine to be established in the home, which in turn can help children with ADHD (Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) focus on responsibilities. They have also been known to help children with autism, whether these are specially trained helper dogs that can calm a child down during a panic attack or a much loved family pet that provides relaxation for children feeling uncomfortable, helping them come out of their shell.
Pets have proven to be a particularly effective source of therapy for the elderly. Loneliness is something that greatly affects the elderly; in 2012 700,000 people aged over 65 said they are often/ always, lonely. Pets can provide much needed companionship while at the same time giving the elderly a reason to go out and exercise.
Pet therapy has been so effective with the elderly that some care homes in the UK are allowing residents to bring their own pets to live with them, making the care home feel more like home. Sunrise Senior Living has residential pets such as cats and dogs which act as therapy pets for those who do not have their own. For example, in their care home in Tettenhall they have a residential black Labrador called Treacle.
Of course there are also the physical benefits. Having a dog WILL mean that you are going to get regular exercise; as you may already be aware, those pooches have a lot of energy! Also when you factor in all of the chasing you have to do to retrieve items/ catch said pet, you are going to be fighting fit in no time!
Less obviously, pets have also been known to decrease blood pressure and lower heart rate. This is through the motion of petting/ stroking. The repetitive action is soothing and relaxing, helping to keep the owner calm and the pet happy.
Your pet may have an off day, but don’t we all? Cut them some slack, they’re good for you!