Veterinary care can be expensive, but the effect pets have on their owners outweighs the cost to keep them healthy, according to a new study. That’s because pets help owners deal with tough financial circumstances.
Independent research firm Catalyst Direct surveyed 400 pet-owning Americans and found that many were stressed because of the economy. Seventy-three percent say they’re more worried about finances than before the downturn; 64 percent say they’re more anxious; 59 percent say they’re less confident; and 32 percent say the economy has affected their sense of identity.
But respondents also said their pets help them cope with the uncertainty. Eighty-nine percent say their pets help them deal with the stresses of life; 86 percent value their pets’ appreciation, despite their own financial concerns; and 83 percent value the steady presence their pets provide.
A study conducted by Alan Beck, director of Purdue University’s Center for Human-Animal Bond, revealed that 97 percent of pet owners talk to their furry companions.[i]
And according to Beck, “The other three percent lied.”
Your Pet is Good for Your Health
The results of a recent survey conducted by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) indicate nearly 60 percent of U.S. families have at least one pet.
There is growing evidence of the health benefits of owning a dog or cat. Research has shown that pets can:
- Lower blood pressure
- Reduce the incidence of allergies and asthma in children (kids exposed as babies to the dirt and allergens on furry pets tend to build stronger immune systems)
- Improve the health and longevity of people who’ve suffered a heart attack
- Increase the appetites of Alzheimer’s patients
- Relieve the depression of AIDS sufferers
In fact, the presence of a beloved pet has the potential to benefit any condition with a stress-related component – which includes the majority of diseases which afflict humankind.
How is it your dog or cat can so powerfully influence the state of your health?
Biologist Erika Friedmann, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Nursing describes the phenomenon this way:
“It’s providing a focus of attention that’s outside of someone’s self. They’re actually letting you focus on them rather than focusing inward on yourself all the time.”
One of the best ways to reduce stress and improve your outlook on life is to “get over yourself.” This can be difficult to do when you’re faced with a debilitating physical or emotional condition.
Caring for a pet takes your focus off yourself, and the love and attention you receive in return can be tremendously gratifying.
Can you name a person in your life you haven’t at some point irritated, angered or disappointed? If you’re human, you probably can’t.
Now think about your pet. Ever known him to show disappointment in you?
Oh, your pup may look longingly out the car window as you drive by his favorite dog park without stopping, but when you get home he’ll still jump from the car and trot right alongside you, happy just to be in your company.
Your dog or cat accepts you without question, expects nothing of you, and is content just to share space with you. The devotion your pet shows you is the very definition of unconditional love.
The Human-Animal Bond
The human-animal bond refers to the powerful, positive interaction that exists between people and animals. It’s not just about companionship – it’s about a deep connection that enhances the quality of life of both humans and animals. [ii]
Benefits of the human-animal bond have been demonstrated in a wide range of circumstances, for example:
- Seniors who own pets visit doctors and use the healthcare system less often than older folks without a dog or cat.
- Having a pet in the family, especially a dog helps children cope with the serious illness and death of a parent.
- Caring for a pet helps children learn to nurture and develop feelings of empathy.
- People who own dogs have less fear of being victims of crime both when they’re out with their dogs, and at home.
- Pet owners have fewer minor health problems and psychological problems than people without pets.
- Some residents of nursing homes have a decreased need for medication when pets are a part of the environment. Pets also increase social interaction among nursing home residents.
- Families report a significant increase in family activities, exercise and happiness after getting a pet.
Pets Help Us Through the Tough Times
Financial problems during these difficult times can be especially hard to deal with for many people. Money concerns can create intense feelings of insecurity and anxiety.
Loss of a job can shatter your self-confidence – even your identity. Loss of savings can make you fearful of the future.
And money worries are just one of countless stressors that affect us all as we navigate our way through life.
If you have a special bond with your pet, comfort and unconditional acceptance are yours as soon as you step through the door of your home. With the wag of a tail or a loud purr, your pet lets you know you are loved.
“Millions of people who otherwise would be completely lost in their minds and in endless past and future concerns are taken back by their dog or cat into the present moment, again and again, and reminded of the joy of Being.” – Eckhart Tolle, Guardians of Being