*By Gemma Harling
You may think being a pet owner is stressful, dogs chew up their beds (and everything else), rabbits dig holes and cats, well, they are plotting to rule the world so are basically uninterested in doing what you want them to do. But, what may actually surprise you is that pets are actually good for your health.
Of course there is the physical benefit of taking dogs for a walk, chasing an escaped rabbit and the occasional game of hide and seek with a hamster, but the health benefits of pets go way beyond this.
Pets have been proven to lower your blood pressure, the stroking of a pet is a relaxing activity that keeps a person calm and stops their blood pressure getting out of control. Plus, if it is a person that has made you mad you could all stroke the cat in a Bond villain like manner while plotting your revenge (hypothetical revenge of course).
A survey by Mindlab International showed that 55% of people were calmer after spending time with their pets and 44% were also less anxious about problems such as money troubles. That is pretty potent pet power there.
In the case of the elderly, pets are an excellent source of therapy. They have been proven to reduce depression, one of the most common problems affecting the elderly today. They provide constant companionship and require lots of love, which in turn eliminates feelings of social isolation and loneliness, whilst also giving an older person a reason to go out and meet people.
Some care homes in the UK allow elderly residents to have pets with them, due to these benefits. Sunrise Senior Living even has residential pets for those residents without, such as Alfie from Hale Barns, Treacle from Tettenhall and Chino from Westbourne (see below).
From the old to the young, pets can also help children suffering with certain disorders, such as ADHD, and autistic children. As children with ADHD find it hard to settle and focus, the pet’s routine of feeds and walks can help a child suffering from this disorder focus on their responsibilities regarding taking care of the pet; while pets can have a soothing effect on children with autism, through the petting and holding of them.
They can also help children build up immunity to allergies and kids are generally healthier as a result of having a pet in their household whilst growing up. It can also decrease the risk of a child developing asthma.
So even though their barking, scratching or incessant whining may be driving you nuts, be nice, they are actually helping you out in the long run!