To those fortunate to have the companionship of a furry or feathered friend, it may come as no surprise that the relationship is beneficial both for the pet and for the owner.
The obvious benefits of caring for a pet include learning about their species and gaining companionship, but research also suggests that there are plenty of other great things that are part and parcel of this relationship.
If you grew up with a dog as a child, you are more likely to have strengthened your immune system and suffer fewer allergies.
This is also likely to have the flow-on effect of children with pets having to take fewer days off school due to illness.
Children with pets may learn to be more empathic as they are taught to be gentle with animals and care for them by feeding or playing with them.
Adults benefit too, as studies show that pet owners have lower cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure and decreased chances of having a heart attack.
People who own dogs tend to exercise more and be more socially interactive. Walking your dog at least once a day is great for your health, but also means getting the chance to chat with other dog owners and share stories and information.
One study showed that when people walking in a park with and without dogs were compared, those with dogs had longer conversations with more people than those without.
People are social creatures by nature, and people who live alone often list the role of a doggy companion as helping them to ward off loneliness, anxiety and depression.
In fact, many nursing homes now have live-in dogs or dogs who visit as part of a pet therapy program.
Recently, a university brought in animals during exam period for students to interact with as a means of combating stress and anxiety.
Dogs and other pets are also often used as therapy for children with special needs or “reading partners” for children who otherwise feel anxious reading to others.
Even fish can have a calming effect. Watching fish swim can actually lower blood pressure and many doctors and dentists now have fish tanks in their waiting rooms.
We don’t just experience the power of our pets when they’re reminding us of feeding time, but it seems simply being around your beloved pet is more beneficial than you might have previously thought.
- Dr Bronwyn Orr is with RSPCA Australia. The RSPCA is an independent, non-government community-based charity providing animal care and protection services. The RSPCA relies on donations from the public in order to carry out its work. If you would like to make a donation to the RSPCA please visit the RSPCA website and follow the links. You can also ring the RSPCA Donation Line on 1300 RSPCA1.