Using animals to offset emotional and physical problems and to improve quality of life is known as animal-assisted therapy or pet therapy. Pet therapy is especially helpful for seniors who as a group commonly experience loneliness, depression, and various health issues.
“We know from studies that interacting with pets can have a direct influence on your health, from lowering your blood pressure and increasing levels of serotonin to helping you get more exercise,” says Dr. Patricia McConnell, an animal behaviorist and the author of For the Love of a Dog: Understanding Emotion in You and Your Best Friend.
Some physical health benefits of pet ownership are:
- A Reduced risk for heart disease
- Lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels
- Encourage exercise and physical activities
- Reduce stress
- Lower blood pressure
Some mental health benefits of pet ownership are:
- A reduced risk for depression
- A new found purpose and joy in life
- A new sense of self-worth and fulfillment
Things to consider before buying/adopting a pet
Can you afford a pet?
Between Vet visits, food, and all the equipment an animal may need, the money can really add up. Check your finances and make sure pet expenses will fit into your budget.
What type of pet is right for you?
Give careful consideration to what would be the right kind of pet for you. Dogs, for instance, make great companions but demand more care and training than cats, birds, or fish.
Is the pet the right age/temperament?
Puppies and kittens require extra time and care. Adopting a friendly and calm older dog or cat may be a better choice for you.
Or if you’re not able to take on the responsibility of pet ownership you could instead visit with a neighbors pet or volunteer at a local animal shelter.
Obviously, if you are not an animal lover, owning a pet would cause stress and do more harm than good. But if having a pet sounds like something you would enjoy, then you can reap all the health benefits of animal companionship!