PETS by Kristi Horner (Courage to Caregivers)
“Have you ever thought that your relationship with your pet is one of the best in your life? Pets provide simple, supportive, confidential support without criticism, advice, or conflict. They provide unconditional positive regard and make us feel needed, wanted, and valued.” – Shawn Burn, PhD
This week’s topic is a fun one – it’s all about how much we gain from having a pet. Just think of all the physical, mental, and emotional benefits we get from pets. Pets have an incredible ability to calm and soothe humans. They don’t judge, they provide unconditional love, they are a source of empathy and companionship, and they’re great to have around during a pandemic!
If you don’t have a pet, there are many reasons to get one. Having an animal friend can help you increase your activity level, get out of the house more, be more social, and get rid of that lonely feeling. Pets are great listeners, and they can be great motivators to help you meet your goals. For example, if you need more exercise, try walking the dog a few more times each week. Or if you just need more self-care time, maybe some extra snuggles will do the trick.
If that’s not enough, here’s a list from Paws for People of some of the therapeutic benefits we get from the simple act of petting:
- Produces an automatic relaxation response
- Stabilizes blood pressure
- Reduces the risk of heart disease, heart attacks, and stroke
- Improves cardiovascular health
- Slows breathing in those who are anxious
- Releases hormones such as phenylethylamine, the same effect as chocolate
- Diminishes overall physical pain
And there’s more. According to HelpGuide, studies have shown that:
- Pet owners are less likely to suffer from depression than those without pets.
- People with pets have lower blood pressure in stressful situations than those without pets.
- Playing with a dog or cat can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine, which calm and relax.
- Pet owners have lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels (indicators of heart disease) than those without pets.
- Heart attack patients with pets survive longer than those without pets.
- Pet owners over age 65 make 30 percent fewer visits to their doctors than those without pets.
Perhaps most important of all, Shawn Burn notes that “the emotional bond between people and their pets is particularly therapeutic because it’s nonjudgmental. Your pet won’t judge you for wearing sweatpants 24/7, being grumpy, or having that extra glass of wine.”
In other words, pets will accept you for being YOU.
Founder and Executive Director
Courage to Caregivers