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A few days ago I shared my story with the jack Russell Joe and the cat Alice. Stephen and I had to take care of them, while their two owners were away on a trip. I got myself thinking, why would people pay for a pet, clean a mess they haven’t made, pay for food and put in so much effort into taking care of it? Then all the psychological benefits of owning a fluffy friend started flooding my mind. And they are many! I will briefly discuss a few.
1. Dog owners, in comparison to people who don’t live with dogs rate higher on scales for happiness, calmness, health. Episodes of major depression are very rare and overall dog owners perform better on different cognitive tasks and at work. Dogs are often used for therapy for people with terminal illness. Here is what many people believe to be true about the beneficial effects of pets.
2. Dogs teach their owners how to be better friends and spouses. A dog owner is more responsible and reliable. He is used to clean messes and he is used to responsibility, so it is not rare that dog owners and those who owned dogs prior to marriage are considered as better helpers at home. They are also considered as more reliable and loyal friends. No wonder about that, huh? After all they have the best example of friendship at home.
3. People who live alone are more likely to meet new people, because of their pet. The human-animal bond is so easy, unlike the human-human relationships. A dog will always be there for you and will give you all its love. However, meeting new people and making new friends could be quite hard in nowadays technological society. For this reason, people who are alone and walking the dog, are more likely to interact with strangers. Studies show that such people are often stopped by strangers who want to say hello to the dog.
Consider the interesting story of Emma Cooper (71):
“I was out walking Surrey, my cocker spaniel and this man stopped to give him a pat. He seemed like a nice man and told me that he used to have a blonde cocker spaniel just like Surrey. We started to talk about living with dogs and then stopped for a cup of coffee. Well one thing led to another and Bill and I are getting married next month – as soon as we can find a clergyman who is willing to let a dog stand in as the best man!”
4. Further psychological research shows that dog owners are emotionally stable, healthier, possess psysical fitness and self-esteem. The mere fact that you have to go out and walk your dog, already makes you want to slip away from your pajamas. You wake up earlier, feel better, the fresh morning air energizes you and the walk with your dog increases your fitness and improves your well-being. Owning a pet simply structures your day.
5. On the other hand, when the dog rests its head on you, it calms you down and makes you produce happy hormones. Who wouldn’t want that?
6. Cat purring has a beneficial effect on you. Even though a cat purs mainly because she feels that she is superior to you in that very moment, I don’t know a person who doesn’t like the purring of a cat.
7. Owning a pet adds meaning and joy to your life. As you get older, things you previously did and your hobbies become something of the past. In addition, you may lose your spouse, or your children might move away. A pet can help you feel better as it encourages playfulness, laughter, physical activity and increases your sense of self-worth.