Animal Attraction — Pet ownership can bring emotional and health benefits

By Joy Jordan
For many people, their pets are a part of their family and fully integrated into their lives. In addition to the happiness that pets can bring, there are many health benefits that accompany little Fido or Fluffy as well.
There are proven health benefits for pet owners, including physical, mental and emotional improvements, from enhancing social skills to decreasing a person’s risk of heart attack.
Heart Health
While pet owners’ hearts may be filled with love for their furry friends, having pets can also help their hearts stay healthy and strong. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institute of Health have conducted heart-related studies on people who have pets. The findings showed that pet owners exhibit decreased blood pressure, and lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels − all of which can ultimately minimize their risk for having a heart attack. The theory is that the benefits come from two areas – first, pets help reduce stress levels, which is key to heart health. In addition, pets often guarantee physical activity on the part of their owners, be it daily walks, jogs, or just playing in the living room. All of which works together to increase overall heart health and wellness.
Allergy reduction
As counterintuitive as it may sounds, having a pet in the home can actually reduce a child’s likelihood of developing related allergies by as much as 33 percent. In fact, research published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology shows that children exposed early on to animals tend to develop stronger immune systems overall.
Pets are often social animals, and having a pet in your life can help your socialization skills across the board, both in terms of meeting and interacting with other pet owners, and providing you with a near constant, non-judgmental companion. Pets can often be a common denominator that helps people connect, everywhere from dog parks to training classes.
Weight maintenance
Dogs, in particular, can be your own personal trainer, since most need to be exercised multiple times a day. Many studies confirm that this sustained activity can be critical in helping you lose or maintain weight. Research conducted by the National Institute of Health also supports this theory − including one study of more than 2,000 adults, which found that dog owners responsible for walking their pups are less likely to be obese than dog owners who pass the duty off to someone else or those who don’t own dogs at all.
Emotional support
As we know, our physical health and mental health are closely intertwined. Pets offer unconditional love that can be lifesaving for many people, and they can often also provide a sense of purpose, which is especially important for those feeling lost. The companionship of pets can also be a true mood-booster. Many hospitals and nursing homes use pet therapy on a regular basis to provide support and enjoyment.
While pet ownership can take a lot of work – and often a fair bit of money, too – it’s clear that for many people, the benefits are worth it all!
Open hearts, open homes — Animal adoption leads to lifelong love
With hundreds of pets in shelters right here on Cape Cod that are in need of homes, adoption is a wonderful way to bring a new pet into your family.
We spoke with Mary Sarah Fairweather, Director of the MSPCA’s Cape Cod Animal Care and Adoption Center, about her program and pet ownership.
What are the demographics of your adoptive pet owners?
Our adopters range from 18 years old and up!
What are people looking for when adopting a pet?
For most people, falling in love with a pet is easy. And no wonder! Sharing a home with a furry friend can be one of life’s greatest joys. Dogs, cats, and other pets give unconditional loyalty and acceptance, provide constant companionship, and help relieve stress after a hard day’s work.
What are the benefits of pet ownership?
We think that the benefits for pet ownership cross all age groups. There are reciprocal benefits for owning a pet, including:
Reducing life’s daily worries – what is better than being greeted with a head rub from a fluffy cat after a long, taxing day?
Being social and making friends – besides having a new best friend to take on walks, you can get out of the house and meet new people! And yes, you can walk a cat on a leash.
Getting physical and mental exercise – pets help lower blood pressure, reduce depression and feelings of loneliness, and of course, improve overall health.
What is the economic impact of pet ownership?
Huge! For 2017, it estimated that $69.36 billion will be spent on our pets in the U.S. The monetary costs of pet ownership can be quite high, as licenses, training classes, spaying and neutering, veterinary care, grooming, toys, and other expenses add up quickly. Sharing a life with a companion animal can bring incredible rewards, but do require the necessary commitments of time, money, responsibility, and love − for the life of the pet.
“We are committed to making pet adoption affordable to the community. A fee of $250 may seem a lot to adopt a dog, but that includes the pup’s spay/neuter surgery, distemper vaccine, rabies vaccine, Bordetella vaccine, heartworm test and preventive, deworming and flea-tick preventive, and microchip ID & registration – a real bargain once you do the math! In some cases, we are able to waive an adoption fee. Funded by the United States Marine Corporal Nicholas G. Xiarhos Memorial Fund as well as TGC Fund of the Cape Cod Foundation, our Wags for Tags initiative pays the adoption fees for MSPCA-Cape Cod shelter animals. For our friends in the community that already own pets and need assistance, we offer affordable access to vaccines, spay/neuter services, wellness care, and food/pet supplies. Want to get involved? We’d love your help to keep these programs going and growing!” —Mary Sarah Fairweather, MSPCA Cape Cod