Pets bring joy, unconditional love and companionship to their owners. They can also lower stress levels, encourage exercise, provide psychological support and help people feel more confident. Many pet owners also find that caring for their pets, especially dogs and cats, helps to reduce depression. In addition, pets can be a great social lubricant and can help you meet new people. For example, you can easily meet new friends through taking your dog for a walk or joining a dog park playgroup. People often become more mindful of their surroundings when they spend time with their pets, which can be calming for those who suffer from anxiety and depression. Pets can help to ground you in the present moment, and they are not judgmental like some humans can be. Petting a furry friend or watching fish swim can reduce your blood pressure, slow your heart rate and increase serotonin, the “feel-good” hormone. In fact, research has shown that just petting a cat or a dog can lower cortisol, the stress hormone.
While the bond between humans and pets has been unabashedly romanticized in literature, art and movies (such as Alexander the Great and his horse Bucephalus or Lassie), since the earliest period of domestication, animals have served utilitarian, economic purposes. For example, hunting is one of the oldest uses of domesticated animals, including dogs and cats. Similarly, the ancient practice of falconry involved taming birds to hunt game.
In the modern era, some pets are kept for pure enjoyment, while others serve important practical purposes, such as service animals or mascots. Still, other animals are bred and sold as pets because of their beauty or unique characteristics, such as coloration, coat length, markings, odor, or songs, which can be appealing to human senses.
Keeping a pet is also an effective way to teach children responsibility. Animals require food, water and care, so they provide a natural motivation for kids to learn to do chores. In addition, children can learn compassion and empathy by taking care of their pet and being there for them when they are sad or upset.
For young children who may have trouble building trusting relationships with adults, a pet can be an excellent confidant and playmate. Additionally, a pet can help to calm hyperactive or aggressive kids by providing them with an ever-present source of affection and playfulness.
If you are interested in getting a pet, research shows that dogs make the best companions. When choosing a breed, look for one that is well-suited to your lifestyle and family’s needs. If you are choosing a commercially bred pet, it’s important to purchase from a reputable store that prioritizes responsible breeding and testing of their products. Finally, when selecting a pet food, look for brands that have nutrition experts with doctorate-level degrees on staff and who collaborate with veterinarians. This will help ensure that the food you choose is healthy for your pet and won’t contribute to health issues down the road.