Posted on January 25, 2016

Positive Psychological Influences of Owning a Pet


Most pet owners are aware of how great their furry companions make them feel. Just as parents take care of their young, pet owners feed, bathe and protect their little ones. Individuals who own a pet contribute to almost every aspect of their pet’s life, and this ongoing exchange of cues and emotions help the two mates communicate effectively and form a strong emotional bond. Using the opportunity to tend to another life may give us a sense of responsibility, and fulfilling certain obligations simply makes us feel good and useful. Pet ownership may allow for another avenue towards happiness.

Quite a few studies have revealed the positive mental health impacts of pet ownership. One research study conducted at the University of Cambridge in the Department of Clinical Veterinary Medicine looked at changes in behavior and health in research participants after they were given a pet (a dog or a cat). This study revealed that general health issues were significantly reduced during the first month, and this decrease was seen throughout the duration of 10 months. Illnesses, such as headaches and colds, were less commonly observed among those who owned a pet. Another study observed the influence of pets on cardiovascular reactivity or heart health and found that individuals with pets had significantly lower heart rate and blood pressure levels and better overall heart health. We see pets as not only one of our top priorities, but as loyal and loving creatures. This kind of strong, emotional support that pet owners receive is among many of the reasons why significant cardiovascular and behavioral benefits are correlated with those feelings of positive emotion.

Pets may also indirectly affect their owners’ overall level of wellbeing. It’s no surprise that those who own pets do spend a bit more time outside exercising with their furry friends. A certain quality of physical fitness is associated with pet ownership. Individuals may also find it easy to make friends and form social circles made up of those who have similar canine-related interests. However, if pet ownership does affect dopamine levels, we may need to look into owning a pet.

Some human-pet pairs seem to form such strong emotional bonds over time that when the little critters come to the end of their life, their owners seem to experience an overall decrease in happiness. It is evident that when a pet dies, its owner tends to grieve in the same way he or she would if a human companion died. Over time, the emotional connection between a pet and a pet owner is established, develops and ceases to exist after a certain point. It’s not hard to see how this may deeply wound the owner. This sorrow that is experienced is reflective of the strength of the emotional connection.

There is something unexplainable about the connection that forms between a pet and their pet owner. As they communicate verbally and nonverbally, they are increasingly able to improve their level of understanding of each other. Just as communication fosters the improvement of relationships between human beings, the relationships between master and mutt are affected in a very similar way. Needs and desires are expressed and catered to over time, and sooner-or-later, a level of trust also becomes established.

Whether it’s their luscious fur, their big ol’ doe eyes, or the way they greet you after a long day’s absence, pets may actually have a strong positive influence on their owner’s overall health. It may be worth considering looking for a furry friend to call your own. Who knows? Maybe one year from now you’ll find yourself a bit happier than you were a year before.

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