The Therapeutic Benefits of Having a PetBy Patty Lowry
He’s the cat’s meow!
To begin with, he is perfect. Handsome, attentive, loyal and always there for me. He follows me around like a lost puppy, stares at me longingly, and speaks to me in our secret language. He’s very dramatic, a bit flamboyant, and constantly plays tricks on me. He’s my confidant, playmate and best friend; he tucks me in every night and wakes me up with his magical kisses. Angus is one in a million and he is also my cat.
Hello, my name is Patty and I am a pet owner. Whether you have a cat or a dog, a bunny, hamster, rat, iguana, fish or frog – those of you who also share the bordering-on-obsessive, over-flowing love that you feel for your fur baby – you know what I am talking about.
Call me a crazy cat lady, but far beyond the cuddles of unconditional love and companionship owning a pet provides, welcoming one into your world also brings some amazing, life-altering, therapeutic benefits.
To start with, just the simple decision to own a pet will teach you to be responsible, organized and selfless. Pets, like kids, need to be on a schedule; they need training, routine feedings, exercise, attention and playtime. Take Angus: he likes his wet food warmed with a tsp of water at 7:40 am – a minute later he’s dancing on my head singing at the top of his little lungs to get me out of bed. And Zsa Zsa, my long-hair teddy bear hamster, would never have been satisfied with an ordinary hamster cage – she needed the extra large Spaceship Habitrail complete with slides and extraterrestrial playrooms.
Having a pet will teach you patience. Poo happens. So does pee, barf and hacked-up furballs – usually on your pillow or favourite very expensive Moroccan carpet. You can spend $100s on trendy toys, but your pet will always think the best ones are your slippers, computer wires, and the proverbial “homework” that is due tomorrow. So put tempting stuff out of sight and give them something they can love as their own – like Pagan’s Hello Kitty catnip doll.
Pets also get sick and need regular vet visits. Even the smallest ailments like when Winston (my $6 dwarf hamster) got a peanut stuck in his tooth and it got infected; removing it cost $200. So yes, deciding to get a pet and caring for it properly is a big commitment that involves time, money and a bundle of emotions.
More than your new best friend, a pet will become your biggest fan. Nothing says love like coming home after a hard day and being greeted like a superstar. You should see Lola Bunny’s blinky back flips! A pet can improve your mood, reduce stress, and help calm anxiety. Just the simple action of stroking a pet or watching a fish swim around in an aquarium helps you calm down and relax.
Pets also act as a great emotional outlet during times of disappointment, pain and grief – in fact they actually help us to heal. Pets help to combat loneliness and depression by providing a renewed sense of purpose and someone to talk to. Virtually all people talk to their pets! You know, the dozens of nicknames and secret language only shared between the two of you. Pets also make amazing sounding boards that happily sit in silence, listen endlessly with no opinions, criticisms or judgment. A pet, especially a dog, can even bring people out of their social shyness and increase their owners’ chances of meeting people. It’s a well-documented fact that people stop and talk to people with a pet…and everyone knows the pull of a puppy or playful dog as a date magnet.
Beyond the enormous emotional benefits a pet shares, they also encourage a healthy lifestyle. Get fit with Fido on daily walks, runs, hiking, agility training and even “doga” (yoga for dogs). And on the flipside, studies show that the mere presence of a pet in your home lowers your blood pressure, decreasing the risk of a heart attack and stroke.
Our furry friendships are so much more than a cute little companion. They are your best friends who will love you, listen to you, be there for you, lick your tears, play with you, keep you company, make you laugh, increase your playfulness and even invite you to explore your creativity! You should see Marley’s fashionable hamster capes! And these days pets are taking over the internet with the help of Instagram, selfies and videos – who knows: your furry friend may just be the next Grumpy Cat or taco eating hamster! One thing’s for sure – they will change your life and capacity to love forever.
“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”