In just about every neighborhood there’s that person that people point to and whisper, “There’s that Crazy Cat Lady” or “That’s the Mad Man of Mutts.” They’re the hoarders of our canine and feline friends, and though it’s easy for us to get a little peeved when pet ownership is taken to the extreme, often these people have learned something that many of us overlook—the significant health benefits of owning a pet(s).
Many of us have felt the joy of bringing a new pet into our home and the excitement of a budding companionship, but most of us don’t realize the true physical and mental health benefits they bring to us. More and more studies are exploring the human-animal bond, and here’s what they’re finding:
Playing with our pets can change our body’s chemical responses during time of stress, literally elevating our serotonin and dopamine levels. This helps us stay calm and relaxed, or at least lessens the severity of our stress. Those with dogs often experience the greatest benefits, but a cat, or even a goldfish aquarium can calm and sooth us.
The American Heart Association confirms that people with pets tend to have lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels (indicators of heart disease) than those without. Heart attack patients, on average, survive considerably longer when there’s a pet at home, and pet owners over the age of 65 make 30 percent fewer visits to their doctor.
Those suffering from loneliness or depression may find that owning a pet reduces the deep feelings of sadness or melancholy they experience. Sometimes, our furry (or fishy) friends can be just the catalyst we need to make us move forward in life. Their need to be fed, walked, and given a little affection forces us to get out of bed when we don’t want to, or out of the house when we might otherwise isolate ourselves.
Overall, pets can provide us with a great deal of therapy and healing. At Krause Funeral Home, we’ve witnessed it time and time again. Our first therapy dog, Oliver, had a special sense for those mourning the loss of a loved one. He knew just how to reach them. Sometimes it was his sweet face as he looked into the eyes of a hurting person; other times he would find a place right next to someone, as though he was there to protect them from any more pain. After Oliver passed away we knew we had to carry on his work and legacy with our new therapy dog, Benny. Though Benny is still a pup in training, the funeral services where his presence has been requested have been especially meaningful to those families. People were open and comforted in ways they might not have been by another person. Pets accept us unconditionally and this helps us more than we realize.
If you’re thinking about whether a pet is right for you, don’t forget to consider the benefits their presence can provide. In most cases, you’re better off with them than without them.