Many people keep pets — dogs, cats, birds, fish, reptiles, amphibians, insects, and other small animals — as companions. Regardless of species, these creatures form close emotional bonds with humans and play an important role in their lives. While they’re not considered livestock, domesticated animals, or laboratory research subjects, the term “pet” has broad legal meaning and applies to any animal a person chooses to love and care for.
Having a pet can have profound effects on a person’s physical, mental and emotional health. It can increase oxytocin, the hormone that promotes bonding and reduces stress levels, while decreasing cortisol, the hormone that increases blood pressure. Pets provide comfort, support, and a sense of security to their owners, which can help reduce anxiety and depression. They can also encourage people to get exercise and spend time outdoors, which can boost moods and improve overall health.
Children who grow up with pets tend to be happier, healthier and have fewer mental, emotional and social problems as adults. Having a pet can teach children responsibility and teaches compassion by providing an unconditional source of support. It can also teach a child about the cycle of life and how to deal with loss, as well as teaching respect for other living things.
Pets can also be a great way to meet new people. Studies show that people who own pets are more likely to talk with other dog owners on walks, hikes or at the dog park. These interactions can help people break down barriers and build trust, which can lead to more lasting relationships. Pets can also be a good way to connect with children who don’t speak yet or have difficulty socializing.
The definition of what counts as a pet is largely subjective and based on personal preference, but there are some basic requirements that most experts agree must be met in order for an animal to be considered a pet. For example, an animal must be kept primarily for its company and affection, not for food or work, and it must receive regular veterinary care and appropriate shelter. Additionally, it must not cause harm to its owner or anyone else.
It’s also important to consider where pets are obtained and what their lives will be like if they live with you. While some pet stores and breeders treat their animals well, others do not. In fact, as PETA has discovered, many exotic animals, including tigers and other large mammals, are violently abducted from their natural habitats, transported long distances in cramped cages, and sold to unsuspecting consumers who can’t afford or don’t know how to properly care for them. This results in unrelenting suffering and a shortened life expectancy. When choosing a pet, it is best to adopt from a shelter or rescue organization. This will help reduce the number of animals that are euthanized each year due to lack of proper care and attention. You can also make an even bigger impact by choosing pet foods that are formulated by nutrition experts to meet the specific needs of the species they’re intended for.