Pets have been providing company, family fun, and entertainment to millions of people around the globe for centuries. These are the animals that are trained and tamed and kept for pleasure as well as companionship. The relationship one shares with a pet is a mutually interdependent and symbiotic one. We simply don’t own them, we love and nurture them, become responsible for them just like we do for our own offsprings. Pet keeping is neither compulsion nor a social or physiological obligation. It is something one chooses entirely for personal reasons.
A survey conducted in twenty-two countries indicated that more than 50% of the people interviewed owned a pet for one purpose or the other. In America alone, there are 78 million dogs, 85 million cats 14 million birds, 12 million small mammals, and 9 million reptiles kept as pets. Surveys have shown that 44% of all households in the U.S have a pet dog whereas 35% have a cat.
Historic perspective of pet keeping
Keeping a pet is not something that became fashionable today. Humans beings began keeping from centuries young animals for entertainment, but when the animals grew older and unruly, they were either eaten or sent back to the wild. There have been records of dogs and cats being buried with humans from 12000 years ago. The Archeological remains have shown that the Romans kept small toy dogs around 2000 years back, these dogs did not have any utility but may have been kept to ward off the black rat which became a major pest in Europe during the same time. Most studies show that the first animal to have been kept as a pet was a dog
Cats were revered and worshipped in ancient Egypt. Bastet was a goddess which was half cat and half woman. People were punished and severe penalties were imposed on people who hurt cats in ancient Egypt. Mafdet and Sekhmet were also cat-like deities that represented justice and power respectively.
Famous people who had pets
Many famous historic personalities were in the habit of pet keeping. Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom had many dogs but the most beloved to her was a Pekingese dog named Looty. George Washington was also a devoted lover of dogs. At his estate in Mount Vernon, he had kept many breeds of dogs like terriers, sheepdogs, and spaniels. The Welsh Corgis are a breed that Queen Elizabeth II is very fond of. Lord Byron, the famous English poet, and aristocrat were fond of keeping unusual pets. He owned a wolf called Lyon and an adult bear, both of which stayed with him at Cambridge University. Adding to the list of Heads Of State who recognized the constructive effects of rearing pets even in their busy schedule is President George Washington was also a devoted lover of dogs. At his estate in Mount Vernon, he had kept many breeds of dogs like terriers, sheepdogs, and spaniels.
Why are pets important
Pets bring added sentimentality and love to life. In the mechanical and fast-paced life of today, maintaining and rearing an additional liability is not a small task. Only the people with a heart of gold take up this momentous mission and accomplish it. Let us take a look at how pets are important to human beings.
Human beings intrinsically long for a non-judgmental and loyal companionship. A confidant that showers them with scrupulous and unconditional love. In humans, such a combination of traits is hard to find if not impossible. Contrarily, a good pet will give you their wholehearted love and attention. Once a plausible connection has been established between a person and his animal friend, it can be guaranteed that the relationship will stand the test of time. What is pleasantly more remarkable is the connotation that many pet owners converse with their pets, confide in them, and even empathize with them. Pets return the love equally and uplift you in times of loneliness, they celebrate with you in times of joy.
The positive impact of pets on humans is that their owners feel loved and needed. The excitement they show by running up their owner when they arrive home gives one a feeling of contentment. Their purrs and cuddles can uplift one’s mood even on the bluest of the days. They can detect the moods and do their utmost to make one feel better. Even in the geriatric population, the presence of a pet provides them with constant social stimulation. As making long-term friendships is difficult for the elderly, pets make up for this deficiency by giving unlimited and wholehearted attentiveness and endearment to these olden fellows.
2- Pets are beneficial from medical point of view
The benefits of keeping pets are not only social, emotional, and psychological, rather there are innumerable medical benefits of owning a pet as well. Scientific research has enabled us to have a closer and more explicit look at the co-relation between pet-keeping and longevity. Let us have a closer look at various benefits of pets from a medical perspective.
Cardio vascular benefits
Research has shown that pets help hypertensive patients in regulating their blood pressure and even recovering from heart-related diseases. The famous book ”Between Pets And People” written by Alan Beck and Aaron Katcher has made an in-depth analysis of the positive effects of pet keeping and concluded that having a pet improved a patients’ prospects of surviving cardiovascular illness by a substantial 3%. This effect can be attributed to the release of feel-good hormones such as serotonin and dopamine that are released in our body when interacting with pets. The exponential effect of this seemingly insignificant companion is the reduction in anxiety as well as in blood pressure levels. The decline in stress levels is crucial to the prevention of stroke and heart attack.
Effectiveness of pets in reducing stress
Pets have shown to be effective in improving a person’s ability to tackle challenging situations. Looking into a loved one’s eyes, be it human or non-human, releases a feel-good chemical both in the pet and the owner which is helpful in channelizing negative emotions and in turn reducing stress levels. This is not all! When a person’s mental and emotional state is stabilized, the by-products of chronic stress such as depression and anxiety are also kept at a bay. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is very common in war veterans or accident survivors. Studies have shown that keeping a pet helps PTSD affectees deal with PTSD more successfully.
Pets are helpful in building immunity
Having a pet at a younger age astonishingly helps to improve immunity in children between the ages of 5 to 7 years. Ordinarily, the exposure to animal allergens would mean that a reaction may be triggered to them but in many cases, the contrary of this is true. This disparity can allude to the research-backed association between exposure to the allergens and immunization. When pets bring a different kind of viruses and bacteria along with them into the house, kids and adults come in contact with these, the immune system triggers a release of antidotes and enhance the defence system of the body.
3- Role of pets in teaching responsibility to kids
Keeping a pet is fun but it requires a child to fulfil many roles and responsibilities and thus keeping a pet makes the child more responsible Feeding a pet proper food at specific times helps integrate an idea of routine and schedule into the lives of children. Whether it is taking the animals for a walk or grazing, cleaning up after them, or catering to all their needs, no matter how big or small they are, teaches children to nurture and care for other beings. Spending time with pets provides them companionship and shows them that there is more fun in sharing their time and space with another entity. Owning a pet teaches them to prioritize their time, for instance, the parents would expect the child to do homework before playing with the pet, so the child will learn how to manage and distribute time amongst different priorities. Even still, the most important benefit of keeping a pet from a parent’s perspective is that it greatly reduces the time a child is spending in the virtual play store. Children need some activities to engage them mentally as well as physically and there cannot be a more appropriate or healthier choice than tending to pets.
4- Social and emotional training for kids and adults alike
Pet keeping helps in the social and emotional grooming of a child as well as parents. Children learn skills like how to manage their anger in situations that would otherwise antagonize them, how to tolerate someone who they are sharing space and love of their parents with. Tending to pets teaches children to be sensible and aware in their social interactions with friends, neighbours, class fellows and adults. Playing games with pets teaches them sportsman spirit and teamwork and taking care of animals teaches them coping skills.
Pets as suitable ice breakers
Keeping a pet has become a rule than an exception. This can prove to be quite catalytic in stimulating social interaction. Just the way weather used to be the ice breaker amongst unknown people, a common interest such as ‘animal keeping’ can help people get along pretty easily. The best thing about a discussion revolving around pets is that it seldom proves to be a contentious or controversial conversation as animals are neutral beings with little to no perks.
5- Pets are helpful in improving physical activity
Pets demand your time and energy, dogs like to play catch, go outside for a run. Cats too like to take a stroll outside. Guinea pigs, goats and other such animals are an unusual choice for a pet but different people have different preferences. All these animals need some activity and fresh air beyond the confines of the home. Hence pet owners willingly or unwilling, have to take their pets outside. This excursion is not only helpful for the pet but also for the owner. It incorporates some physical activity into the lives of owners who might have spent their entire day in front of a screen doing their desk job. The benefit of this exercise is two-fold i.e. a happy pet and a healthy lifestyle. The progressional effect of the walk and physical activity is that it reduces the risks of various medical issues, helps people to socialize and garner positivity.
6- Humanizing effect
Pets are important because they make us more humane and civilized. James Cromwell could not have said it more appropriately “Pets are humanizing, they remind us we have an obligation and responsibility to preserve, nurture and care for all life.” Just the way the presence of a human baby has a sprightly as well as the sobering effect on the entire environment of the house, the pets also contribute to the overall serenity of the living area. With everyone big and small, feeling responsible toward the pets’ wellbeing, an ambiance of empathy and compassion is created not only domestically but also socially.
Children are like sponges, they absorb whatever is happening around them. If a caretaker, parent or sibling treats the animal well, the child also learns how an effort can be made to take care of the animal. Animals can inspire children and adults alike as they are intrinsically empathetic creatures. They can conveniently become best friends of children. A child’s moral development is also strengthened by this splendid human-animal relationship. When the child is able to understand and meet the needs of a pet, this attitude carries forward into their adulthood as well.
7- Helpful for disabled children
Research has shown that dogs are extremely helpful to children with special needs. Be it an impaired sight or hearing, or a child with autism or ADHD, animals can provide assistance by warning the child or an adult about impending danger or a misevent. They are innately easy to train and flexible beings. They can be trained to perform a multitude of tasks once we decipher their psychology and help to mold them. They have even been successfully trained to provide solace to children during meltdowns or hyperactivity, autistic children have shown to be more emotionally stable in the presence of their pets. This can primarily be attributed to the fact that pet seems to be the one true friend entity that doesn’t judge a special child no matter what the circumstances are. Additionally, although children with autism are less likely to engage with other children, the pet factor has proven to make them more assertive and open to communication. This significantly reduces the general awkwardness, enhances social inclusion, and helps the child adjust to the new surroundings.
Hence keeping a pet stimulates a sophisticated behavior in the caretakers and stabilizes them mentally, emotionally, and physically. It is, therefore, a win-win situation to own a pet with no downside or drawback.