Whether it’s for companionship, exercise, protection or emotional support, a surprising number of us share our home with animals.
Cuteness aside, did you know that caring for a pet can also make you healthier? It’s called The Pet Effect, and it’s surprising.
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) estimates that 36.5% of American households (including mine) have dogs, and 30.4% have cats.
According to the Center for Disease Control, owning a pet can decrease your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, triglyceride levels, and feelings of loneliness, while increasing your opportunities for exercise and outdoor activities and socialization.
As I’m sure you’re aware, owning a pet is a privilege, and a huge responsibility. The animals we bring into our homes rely on us for nourishment and care. In return, they love and support us — it’s a simple relationship, and one which can have unexpected health benefits for us!
Humans have coexisted with animals for thousands of years, beginning with wolves trained to assist in hunting. Evidence found in Israel shows canines being buried with humans during the neolithic age — as early as 12,000 years ago. The remains of dogs similar to our modern pets have been found with Chinese human skeletons 6000 years old. Domestication of cats, traditionally kept for vermin control, began with the Egyptians around 4000 years ago.
Dr. Peter Eyre, dean at Virginia-Maryland, explains “We’ve known for generations that companion animals have beneficial effects on human health and well-being, but we haven’t understood very much about why that is so.”
“The general belief is that there are health benefits to owning pets, both in terms of psychological growth and development, as well as physical health benefits,” agrees Dr. James Griffin, a scientist at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. “But there have been relatively few well-controlled studies. That’s the state of the science, in a nutshell.”