The major benefit of having a pet is that we get social support, making us less likely to feel lonely. These benefits extend to all ages. Research done on elementary school children found that having pets at home enhances self-confidence and self-esteem (1). It has further been observed that children who have strong bonds to cats and dogs are more empathetic compared to other children. Theorists further emphasise that having a pet in a family unit makes the family environment more positive, with socially well-adjusted and empathetic children.
Also pet owners, especially dog owners, report being as emotionally close to their pets as they are to family members. This was found to be true among HIV and AIDS patients who equated the close emotional bonds with their cats to those with family members (2). One can then conclude that pets are a source of emotional support. It appears that pet ownership shields and protects us from the shock we experience during difficult and traumatic life events.
Similarly research on survivors of childhood sexual abuse found that during their early years people perceived their pets as better sources of support than humans (3). Theorists have also proposed that dog and cat owners are in better health compared to non-owners. This assumption has been based on the number of times people seek medical services and their medication habits (4).
In addition, research conducted on both young and older people observed higher physical activity rates among dog owners compared to non-owners (5). This could justify why pet owners enjoy far fewer visits to physicians and have lower rates of psychiatric illnesses, lower mortality rates and higher recovery rates from illnesses such as heart attack. Besides physical activity, theorists propose that pets make us less anxious.
Theorists researching the association between pet owners and the mood of people living alone found that, among women, pets are positively related with enhanced morale and decline in loneliness (6). Additionally, it has recently emerged that pets have therapeutic benefits that serve to prevent health problems, aid with treatment and nurse us back to health.
(1). Baker, B. S., & Wolen, A. R. (2008). The benefits of human-companion animal interaction: A review. Journal of Veterinary Medical Education, 35, Pp 489
(2). Baker, B. S., & Wolen, A. R. (2008). Pp 489
(3). Baker, B. S., & Wolen, A. R. (2008). Pp 489
(4). Baker, B. S., & Wolen, A. R. (2008). The benefits of human-companion animal interaction: A review. Journal of Veterinary Medical Education, 35, 487-495
(5). Baker, B. S., & Wolen, A. R. (2008). Pp 488
(6). Baker, B. S., & Wolen, A. R. (2008). Pp 489