The Benefits of Pets

Pets are a lot of things to their owners, including companions, playmates, and furry family members. Many pets also provide emotional support and help to keep their owners active and feeling needed. They can even increase social interaction and lower depression. As a result, studies show that people who own pets are happier and healthier than those who do not have them.

Pets help us fulfill a fundamental human need for touch and interaction. Stroking, petting, and talking to a loving dog or cat can rapidly calm people down and improve their moods when they feel stressed or anxious. For example, it only takes a few minutes of cuddling with your pet for the levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, to decrease and serotonin, a feel-good chemical, to rise. These effects are not only temporary, but they are also long-lasting. In fact, hardened criminals in prison report long-term changes in their behavior after they interact with their pets.

Children also benefit from the company and stimulation of a pet. They learn responsibility by taking care of a pet and learn how to handle animals safely. They can also train their pet to perform tricks, which requires patience and perseverance. This teaches kids about the rewards of working toward goals and helps to build self-esteem.

A pet can also teach a child about compassion, respect, and empathy. Recent research shows that some animals, such as dogs, dolphins, and primates, can experience emotions similar to humans, including fear, sadness, and compassion. These findings support the idea that some pets have a sense of what their owners are feeling and can understand and respond to their needs.

Throughout history, domestication of animals has been a means of providing food and other practical uses for humans. However, what distinguishes the symbiotic relationship between people and their pets is not just utilitarian functions but rather a mutual pleasure that has been unabashedly sentimentalized in myth, art, and literature (the affection between Alexander the Great and his favorite horse Bucephalus and the popularity of Lassie).

There are several important factors to consider before choosing a pet. You must have the time, money, and space to care for your animal, as well as a stable home environment with consistency and routine. If you aren’t sure if you can commit to caring for a pet, it might be best to foster or help someone else with their animal instead of getting one of your own.

If you decide that a pet is for you, remember to be a responsible owner and never take an animal from the wild. It can be cruel to keep animals in captivity and deprive them of the natural environment that they are accustomed to, which can be just as stressful for the animal as living in a home with humans. You should also make sure you can provide proper shelter, water, nutrition, and exercise for your animal. Moreover, you should avoid bringing home animals that have already been bred or that are sick so as not to harm their health or quality of life.