There is an ever increasing trend to consider pets as part of the family. In fact, millions of people around the world love their pets, enjoy their companionship, go for walks, play and even talk to them. In fact, there is evidence suggesting that attachment to pets is good for human health and even helps build community.
Healthy, emotional connections
A pet can bring a great deal of joy into your family’s world – plus loads of other benefits. Here are just some of the reasons why it could be time to add a furry friend to your family.
1. An injection of joy Sharing space with a companion animal brings a fun factor to your child’s daily life because animals do a lot of crazy things – and children love silliness! A furry friend makes even the most mundane kids’ activity more exciting, plus the experience of nurturing a pet creates lifelong memories. Playing with a pet has even been shown to enhance feelings of pleasure and tranquility.
2. Teaching responsibility Children learn compassion and empathy by caring for a pet, as they start to understand the emotional and health needs of a family member more vulnerable than they are. Learning to be kind and gentle is a valuable life lesson, so giving them responsibility for part of your cat or dog’s care is good parenting; doing small but important jobs such as keeping the water bowl full or your dog’s coat brushed is an excellent way for them to get their first taste of accountability.
3. Constant companionship Childhood can have its difficult moments, and animals can be an enormous source of unconditional love and comfort to a child who’s getting to grips with life’s tricky lessons. When your son or daughter has had a bad day at school, an upset with a friend or a row with a sibling, facing the separation of their parents, or the loss of a family member, a cuddle with the family pet can be a great comfort and stress reliever, helping him or her process difficult emotions.
4. Self-esteem boost Having a non-judgmental companion who loves you no matter what is a great boost to a child’s self-esteem. Dogs tend to be loving and attentive towards their human family; a friend your child can talk to, confide in and play with when there’s no one else around. As your child grows up, the pet’s love is a constant in their life, and a support they can always rely on. This unconditional love helps your child believe in him or herself as much as the loyal pet does.
5. A more active lifestyle It’s no secret that many of today’s kids don’t get enough outdoor time or physical activity, and a dog can help immensely with that. Dogs love joining in with kids’ activities, and daily walks and garden play time gives your child a good run-around – in fact, one study showed that kids with dogs exercise 11 minutes a day more than those without them.
6. Social perks Not only do cats and dogs make great friends themselves, they can actually help your child make human friends, too. Pets can be a wonderful catalyst for socializing, because children are more inclined to approach and interact with another child who is playing with an animal. If you have a shy child, your pet can be the bridge between them and other potential playmates.
Sharing your life with a pet has been associated with a decreased risk of coronary artery disease, a reduction in stress levels and increased physical activity. The presence of a pet during stressful activities has been shown to lower blood pressure. In fact, levels of endorphins, oxytocin and dopamine increased in both humans and their dogs during caring interactions. This shows us that time spent together is very beneficial for both humans and animals.
The bond between humans and animals is not just good for human health, it can also help to build community. People with pets often find themselves engaged in activities with their companion animal that gets them out connecting with other people. Social networks that are developed based on shared concern over the welfare of animals can lead to increased human-human interaction, as well as activities involving pets (e.g. dog-walking clubs). Walking a dog gets people out of private spaces, which can be isolating, and into public areas where interactions with other people are possible.
Recognizing the ways that companion animals enrich human lives, and understanding the depth of the affection between many humans and animals, may be the key to not only better health, but to improving the welfare of society as a whole.
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