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It is estimated that there are 9.3 million dogs and 11.1 million cats owned in the UK, meaning that 40% of British households have at least one pet. But why do we keep these animals in our homes? What do we gain from it? It is reported that 91% of owners says that owning a pet improves their lives. Studies have shown that people who own pets live a longer and healthier life then people who do not own an animal. The benefits of owning a pet differ from owner to owner; there are social benefits, psychological benefits, health benefits and then of course, the enjoyment aspect. This article looks deeper into the all the different benefits of owning an animal.
There are particular benefits associated with dog owners. When owning a dog, you often have to stick to a routine; dogs need to be fed and walked. People work well with routines, but dogs thrive with routine, so it gives the owners a reason to stick to feeding, walking and socialising their pet at the same time every day. This can also give the owner something to look forward to in their day from walking the dog, playtime or just curling up on the sofa for cuddles; 2pm = cuddle time.
A dog needs a daily walk, and this gives the owner a reason to leave the house. The owner will bond further with the animal but also benefit themselves. Daily exercise can make a person feel better but can also increase their health by getting fresh air circulating in their lungs.
People can go on walks together with many clubs organising group walks. Friendships can be formed with other pet owners and it can open lines of communications between people who may find social situations stressful as it gives you a group of like-minded people to be around. 50% of respondents of the Pet Plan census believe that owning a pet is a better way to a social life. They feel that it is a positive interaction to have with strangers and already they have common ground with them to start a conversation. They motivate people to go outside of their homes and meet new people. In some cases, people have met their significant others through dog related activities such as walking and training classes.
Throughout the UK many people suffer from mental health issues. It is estimated that one in six people suffer from a mental illness ranging from depression to anxiety each week worldwide, and one in four people will experience a mental health issue during their lifetime. However, the amount of people who go to their GP to ask for help is low. A therapy that is widely used in the UK is pet therapy in hospitals and nursing homes. The role of a pet therapy dog is to build the owners confidence, with companionship which helps to reduce the anxiety of the patient. Different types of animals can be used from dogs to fish, and they all have benefits to people. Animals can also be used in the home environment to help people from everyday living to mental health issues. Not only does the owner benefit from the companionship the pet does too. 84% of owners have reported that having a pet makes them feel physically and mentally better in themselves.
Companionship can greatly benefit a person who may feel isolated in their homes dealing with either depression of anxiety and interacting with pets has been proven to boost mood and reduce loneliness.
Training the animal will give the owner and the pet some quality bonding time together. The owner can see the rewards of training the animal and the dog will love having the mental challenge of training and spending quality time with the owner. This can also be a social benefit as it will involve going to training classes.
It's not only dogs that can benefit people suffering from mental illness. Cats have also found to have therapeutic properties. People who suffer from social anxieties can have the companionship with a cat who will love to be in their company. As with dogs they also give the owner the responsibility of looking after a pet which can take their mind off their anxieties.
Pet owners’ cholesterol can be lower, fitness can be higher, and owner’s anxiety can be lower. Blood pressure can be reduced as animals help us to relax after either, a busy, stressful day at work or from the day-to-day pressures that affects people. The action of stroking an animal either cat or dog can help the owner forget their worries; stroking a cat has been proven to reduce blood pressure and stress. Owners who do suffer from health problems and own a pet find that they are less stressed through treatment or return to health faster.
With walking a dog outside the benefits can also include improvements for the owner’s immune system. People are exposed to more germs which in time will boost their immune system. Children also can benefit from animals being in the household from an early stage; as early as the first year. Research has shown that in their first year, they are at lower risks of coughs and respiratory issues. Researchers have found that babies who live in an over sanitised environment are more likely to become sick then a baby who lives in an environment with a cat or a dog. It is thought that dander which is in animals’ fur as well as microbes that pets can carry in their fur helps to develop their immune system and helps manage future common allergies. They are thought to have a more prepared immune system for later on in life. 31% of babies who had a dog in their environment were found to have a healthier first year then babies who did not have a dog in their household.
The role of a pet therapy dog is to build the owners confidence, with companionship which helps to reduce the anxiety of the patient.
Not only can animals improve a child’s health, but it is thought that they can teach child a valuable lesson in responsibilities once old enough. They can learn skills when looking after an animal from a horse to a hamster, each will teach the child responsibilities of looking after a life. Skills such as feeding the animal, cleaning out their living area, grooming the animal, teaching and training the animal and general nurturing of the animal. All of these skills can help the child later on in life.
When we look at all the benefits to us of owning a pet, it is clear why pet ownership is on the rise and why we are nation of cat and dog lovers.