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Article By: AAG Advisor
Are you among the millions of Americans who have at least one pet? If not, maybe you should be. Pets aren’t just fun companions – they can help us live healthier, happier and longer lives. Discover some of the surprising benefits of pet ownership.
If you’re reading this at home, there’s a good chance an animal is lounging nearby. The reason: Nearly half of households in the U.S. have at least one pet.
If you’re among that group, you may be getting some pretty great health benefits from your dog or cat (or rabbit, fish, bird, horse, etc.). If you’re currently without a pet, there are lots of good reasons to consider changing that situation and adding one to your home and heart.
That said, pet ownership isn’t the right move for everyone – and it’s important to find the right pet for you if you do decide to go down this road. With that in mind, here’s a look at what pets bring to our lives – along with some key considerations to weigh if you begin a pet hunt.
Regardless of whether you own a pet, you likely are well aware that the bond between pets and their owners runs strong and deep. A quick glance at social media posts from friends and family probably gives you all the evidence you need to conclude that pets are not simply animals, but rather treasured and full-fledged members of many families.
Those bonds aren’t just niceties, though. Having a pet has been shown to convey numerous health benefits to humans that can help us live better, longer lives. According to the CDC, people with pets often exhibit lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and fewer feelings of loneliness and anxiety. What’s more, better cognitive function and more opportunities to socialize are often seen among older pet owners.
Specifically, the following are some of the most compelling advantages you can potentially gain from pet ownership:
Another example: Research involving children with autism found that those who had a family pet from a young age tended to have greater social skills and that social behaviors in children with autism temporarily improved after even a short play period with an animal.
A pet might even help prevent allergies and boost natural immunity. “The prevalence of allergic disease in children aged 7 – 9 years is reduced … with the number of household pets living with the child during their first year of life, suggesting … cats and dogs protect against allergy development,” notes one study.
Of course, all this talk of the healing power of pets shouldn’t blind you to the fact that pet ownership can create stress as well as alleviate it. Pets can develop health problems that, as much as you love your pets, can turn them into significant burdens that require a great deal of your time and money. Or they might simply encounter a porcupine one day. By one estimate, owners spend from $9,000 to more than $13,000 for medical treatments over their pets’ lifetimes.
And if you have ever been awakened at 5:00 a.m. by a dog, a cat or another animal that is raring to play, you know that pets can raise blood pressure as well as lower it!
None of that is to say you shouldn’t get a pet – just that you should go into the decision with clear eyes. That’s especially true if you have financial concerns, or factors that could limit your ability to care for a pet – such as excessive demands on your time. Indeed, one study by the American Humane Association found that the top reason a previous dog owner did not get another one was veterinary costs (30 percent), followed by “general costs” (29 percent). Additionally, 26 percent of previous dog owners and 28 percent of previous cat owners cited travel away from home as a barrier to ownership.
If you’re older, you should consider both your ability to properly care for a particular pet (dogs need to be walked) and your age vis – à – vis the animal’s – as some animals may very well outlive you. Your desire for personal freedom should inform your decision, too. If you want the ability to head out on a big vacation at a moment’s notice, a pet that needs significant daily attention might not be for you.
Often the decision doesn’t boil down to getting versus not getting a pet – it’s about getting the right type of pet for you and your lifestyle. That means considering issues and asking questions such as these:
To gain clarity on these questions and others, it can be a good idea to talk with a veterinarian or the staff at local pet shelters and humane societies – who often are trained to help would-be owners find the right pet based on their needs, preferences, limitations and other factors.
Pets can be fun and silly, of course. But they also can help us become and stay healthier in numerous ways. That said, even “easy” pets require care, attention and love. Carefully weigh the pros and cons – for yourself and your loved ones – so you can decide whether it’s time to welcome a new furry or feathered friend to the family.