Why animals can keep you sane

The benefits of pet ownership

What is it about having a pet that enhances our lives?

There is plenty of research that people who own pets are more relaxed, fitter and happier overall.

According to the New Zealand Companion Animals Council, New Zealanders own in excess of 5 million pets  (admittedly, including many fish) which is a number greater that the population!

What is it about pets that enhance our lives so much we couldn’t possibly live without them? Unconditional friendship is the standout here. Dogs, cats, horses, guinea pigs, fish or birds don’t care what kind of a day you’ve had at work. They just want your full attention when you get home – and what better way to de-stress and shrug off workday woes than interacting with our pets.

Pets ground us and remind us of the important things in life – love, fun, caring and sheer entertainment. It’s no wonder ample studies show pets help lower blood pressure, lessen anxiety and boost our immunity.

Like any other enjoyable activity, playing with a dog can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine – nerve transmitters that are known to have pleasurable and calming properties. In fact people take drugs like heroin and cocaine to raise serotonin and dopamine but a much healthier and legal way is to play with your dog.

Pets are also great social icebreakers. There’s no doubt you meet more like-minded people when you have any sort of pet in your life. You also have way more motivation to get fit by taking the dog out for a walk more often. Or get into the backyard and spend time with your birds, poultry or cloven-hoofed pets.

However, pet ownership is a commitment. It’s not a passing fad. Pets instil a deeper layer of responsibility in kids and one that will stay with them for life because a pet relies solely on its human for the quality of its existence.

 

Things to consider are:

  • Before buying a pet, think seriously about the most suitable type of animal for you.
  • The wrong pet in the wrong situation is simply condemning that pet to a life of hell.
  • You may not be able to house a Great Dane in an apartment but your abode may be suitable for a Ragdoll cat.
  • Underestimating purchase, setup and maintenance costs can lead to heartbreak down the road. Be realistic about what you what you can afford.
  • Buying from a reputable source gives peace of mind that advice is readily available should it be needed.

 

The downsides (yes, there are some):

  • Don’t become a ‘collector’. We’ve all seen them. They can’t say no to any animal, whatever species it is and end up being overrun with animals. The risk here is that the animals don’t get the individual attention they crave and resentment can set in, turning the pets into attention-seeking monsters.
  • Glossing over maintenance costs can result in shortcuts with feeding, wellbeing and even veterinary treatment. You, as owner, are responsible and have a permanent duty of care to that animal.
  • Death of a pet is inevitable and it’s this lifecycle that teaches kids (and adults) about the process of losing a pet, burying it and remembering the good times. We have just lost Coco, our lovely little dog of 15 years and miss him enormously. But as I look out the office window to his grave in the garden, I am heartened that he is still retaining pride of place watching out over the thing he loved most – his property. Coco will always be with me and that makes me happy.

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