Did you know that over the past ten years, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has been a partner in research to determine the physical and mental benefits of having a pet? It turns out that pets not only steal our hearts, but they can contribute to better cardiovascular health. Studies have shown that the bond between people and their pets can increase fitness, lower stress and bring happiness to their owners. Regular walking or playing with pets can decrease blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. Pets can also help manage loneliness and depression by giving us companionship. This was helpful to many people suffering from loneliness during the pandemic. In fact, between March and July of 2020, there was a surge in pet adoptions and some shelters could not meet the demand. Since people had more free time, less socializing, and lots of alone time, many people found a pet was just what they needed to fill that void.

Black and Tan cat with green eyes

Cali, a tortoiseshell cat, posing to get attention.
Photo Source: Melanie Taylor

Although many of us are slowly returning to the normal stresses of daily life, a pet can still give us those same health benefits. Just think about it: on those stressful days with busy work schedules, running kids around town to their activities, etc., what’s better than being greeted at your door in the evening by a dog with a wagging tail or a cat’s purr as they snuggle with you? Of course, do not forget those unique pets, such as birds, bunnies, hedgehogs, reptiles, fish, and lots of other furry and scaly friends of ours.They all greet you in their own special way.

On a safety note, always remember pets can carry harmful germs that can make us sick even when the pet appears healthy. People with compromised immune systems and pregnant women should always take extra precautions when interacting with pets. Some tips on staying safe and healthy around your pets are to always wash your hands after handling your pets and be sure to maintain your pet’s health by regular visits to the veterinarian. Also, practice good pet hygiene by keeping pets out of the kitchen, cleaning their toys, beds, food, water/food bowls, etc., regularly sanitizing areas the pets frequent, and, of course, cleaning a cat’s litter box daily and picking up dog poop outside and disposing of it properly. When pets are added to your family, always teach your children how to properly interact with the animal(s). Small children should always be supervised when interacting with any pets.

Orange cat with toy

Sonny, a tabby cat, enjoying play time with his mouse toy.
Photo Source: Melanie Taylor

On a fun note, if you are a pet owner, you already celebrate your pet(s) everyday, but there is an annual day of celebration for our pets. National Pet Day is April 11, 2021. This is an extra special day to give your pet extra snuggles and maybe even an extra treat. Be sure to use this day to remember why your pet is so special to you and your family. Reminisce about your pet memories while giving him/her extra attention and maybe even share your special memories on social media. People love seeing pictures of pets. It makes everyone’s day brighter. Here are the top four ways people report making National Pet Day special for their pet, 1) I give my pet a special treat, 2) I tell my pet “I love you”, 3) I buy or make a special gift for my pet, and 4) I let my pet sleep in my bed with me. (https://nationaltoday.com/national-pet-day/)

So, be sure to remember your pet this National Pet Day in April.

To see the importance of pets in our lives and families be sure to check out the interesting insights below from surveys about people and their pets.

Interesting Insights about People and their Pets:

  • 95% of pet owners say their pets are part of the family.
  • 94% of families with an autistic child benefited from having a pet.
  • 67% of households in the United States have a pet. Americans spend approximately $75 billion a year on pet care and products.
  • 44% of people reported they would rather cuddle with their pet than their partner.
  • 22% of Americans are attracted to people who treat their pet like a family member.
  • 11% of Americans hang out with their pets (ex. watch TV, read books, etc.).
  • 10% of owners are allergic to their pets.
  • 10% of Americans consider their pet to be their best friend.
  • 10% of Americans talk to their pet in a special voice.
  • 10% of Americans carry on conversations with their pet.

As April approaches and spring weather arrives, be sure to get outside with your pets and enjoy some stress relief, feel the sunshine on your face, smell the fresh blooms, and take in the beauty of nature around you. It will provide positive health benefits for you and your pet as you take a long, relaxing walk together. If your pet is an indoor only pet, be sure to sit in the floor and play with your pet like you did when they were kittens, etc. They will love the extra time and closeness with you. No matter what type of pet you have, be sure to let them bring you happiness and relaxation, and you, in turn, can help them live their best pet lives possible.

Sources:

Center for Disease and Prevention (CDC):

https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/health-benefits/index.html

National Today:

https://nationaltoday.com/national-pet-day/

The Washington Post:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/08/12/adoptions-dogs-coronavirus/

 

 

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