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They Can Calm Even the Most High-Strung People... But Which Is Best for Your Health?

November 21, 2015

Story at-a-glance

  • Pets enrich our lives in countless ways, and are even good for our health
  • The benefits of dog ownership are well-known, but cats also make wonderful companions that easily adapt to their owner’s lifestyle
  • Exotic birds make great pets for knowledgeable, dedicated owners

By Dr. Becker

As all of us with animal companions know, our furry, feathered, and finned friends have a calming effect on us. It's an instinctive and universal response that can be seen, for example, when an animal is brought into a classroom full of children who suddenly lower their noise level.

The calming effect of a pet also protects against loneliness, depression, and anxiety. Psychotherapists report that many tense, anxious patients become calm and relaxed when an animal is brought into the room.

The calming influence of companion animals is their ability to reflect back to us in a positive way, similar to the way in which a loving, accepting mother reflects back to her children that they are wonderful.

People are also more sociable, relaxed, and accepting of others when an animal is present. And an added bonus is that our pets also motivate us to participate in more activities, including exercise.

Almost everyone understands the benefits of owning a dog, so let's take a look at how some other types of companion animals improve the quality of our lives.

Cats Are Affectionate, yet Self-Sufficient

Having a cat in the family helps kids learn to be compassionate and gentle. Kitties require an entirely different approach than dogs do, and children quickly learn that handling their cat roughly or aggressively will only cause her to run and hide, putting an end to the interaction.

Another benefit of sharing life with a cat is that each feline-human pair has their own way of communicating, which is largely due to the wide variety of behaviors cats use to talk to their humans. For example, some kitties like to rub up against your leg, while others rub their head against yours.

Some cats sit very still while staring at you, while others tilt their head in an irresistible questioning gesture.

Many kitties vocalize as a way to communicate. Others scratch the floor or stand on hind legs and reach for you with their front paws. Still others deliver little nibbles to their human's face or neck.

Unlike dogs, cats tend to follow their owner's lead in terms of how much time they spend together. Most kitties can easily adapt to a lot of human interaction, or not so much, without complaint. Their self-sufficient nature helps cats get along without a need for the same level of contact other types of pets require.

And kitties benefit from being around humans as well. According to a 2007 study, cats form attachments to their owners similar to the way babies attach to their mothers.1 When their humans were in the room with them, the cats in the study were more relaxed and willing to explore an unfamiliar environment.

Exotic Birds Love to Learn From Us

Exotic birds, for example, parakeets and cockatiels, make fabulous companions for knowledgeable, committed owners. These birds are extremely intelligent. For owners who want to dedicate the time and energy to constantly enriching their bird's environment, larger parrots can also make delightful, fascinating companions.

Another great thing about owning a bird is that many species love to learn and love attention from their humans, so training them is often easy and fun. Many pet birds are very social and have the capacity to bond just as or more closely with their humans as dogs and cats.

Birds are also interesting to have around. Many birds have feather coats that are incredibly beautiful and vibrantly colored. Bird behavior is also fun to observe, and can lower your stress level.

If you're interested in acquiring an exotic bird as a pet and are prepared to make a substantial and lifelong commitment to it, please contact local animal shelters or an exotic bird sanctuary in your area. Bird sanctuaries, in particular, are often overwhelmed with beautiful, wonderful abandoned and rescued birds in need of new forever homes.

Fish Add a Sense of Serenity to Your Environment

Fish make great companions for people who don't have the time or physical space to devote to a higher-maintenance animal companion. And under the right circumstances, fish can also be good first pets for children who are ready to take on the responsibility of caring for a living creature.

Fish have a tranquil, calming effect on us as we watch them glide effortlessly through the water. They are also quiet (you never have to worry about a howling or screeching fish upsetting the neighbors or waking a sleeping baby).

Fish are also a feast for the eyes, as they come in an infinite variety of sizes, shapes, and stunning, vibrant colors. And a well-maintained fish aquarium can be a beautiful, soothing addition to any room in your home.

Some types of fish interact with their owners, are playful, and can even be trained to do tricks!

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Sources and References

  • 1 Journal of Veterinary Behavior, July-August 2007, Vol. 2, Iss. 4, pages 119-125
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