As millions of pet parents across the globe enjoy the company of their animals, people start to consider their pets as family members, with some owners going for walks, playing, or talking to their furry companions, noted L.F. Carver of The Conversation, a news and analysis website. Animals are part of family events and can be an important buddy or best friend to children of single parents. Kids with pets may be more empathic and have higher self-esteem compared to those who don’t own pets. Further, as individuals spend more time with their pets, the more they become attached, reducing stress levels.
The Life of Pets As Members of the Family (2020)
Wisdom Health Genetics, a global leader in pet genetics and manufacturer of Wisdom Panel dog DNA tests revealed in its 2020 Pet Census survey that nearly all dog parents (99%) and cat parents (96%) noted a positive impact on their mental health thanks to their pet, said Business Wire, a press release distribution website. Pet parents enjoyed snuggling and playing with their dog and cat. 75% cited companionship as the top reason for having a pet. Between social life and pets, 72% of dog parents and 32% of cat parents chose to cancel their plans to spend more time with their furry family members. In the report, pets have consistently made themselves a part of the family as dogs and cats love to sleep in bed with their owners. 51% of cats were adopted from a rescue or shelter while 21% were found roaming. For dogs, 62.5% were adopted from a shelter or rescue.
Interestingly, a small proportion of cat owners (1.6%) had gotten a DNA test for their feline. They made their feline undergo the procedure because the owners wanted a deeper understanding of their pet (48%) and for health outcomes (27%). On the other hand, the figure was larger among dog owners, with 67% deciding to have at least one of their dogs undergo a DNA test. The owners decided to do so out of curiosity (56%) or want a deeper understanding of their dog (21%). 14% said they did it for health outcomes (14%).
The top five mixed breed dogs included German Shepherd, Labrador Retriever, Chow Chow, Boxer, and Rottweiler. Among mixed breeds and purebred dogs, the top five were the American Staffordshire Terrier, Labrador Retriever, German Shepherd, Chihuahua, and Chow Chow. Each Household owned an average of 1.7 dogs and 1.9 cats.
The Role of Pets In Improving Our Lifestyle
1. Emotional Connections
Humans benefit from their pet’s emotional attachment. For example, higher levels of attachment to pet dogs had been correlated with an increased likelihood of walking the dog and spending more time walking than those who have a weaker bond with their pet. Pet ownership has also been linked with a decreased risk of coronary artery disease and stress levels, including increased physical activity. For older adults aged 65 to 84 years who are being treated for hypertension, pet ownership has been correlated with improved cardiovascular disease survival.
2. Children’s Physical and Mental Health
Dana Casciotti, Ph.D., and Diana Zuckerman, Ph.D., of the National Center for Health Research, the voice for prevention, treatment, and policy, cited a 1997 study by SL Nagengast and colleagues. The research evaluated the blood pressure, heart rate, and behavioral distress among healthy children aged three to six at two different doctor visits for routine physical examinations.
At one visit, a dog that was unrelated to the child was in the room while the canine was absent in another visit. When the dog was in the room, the kids had lower pressure, heart rates, and less behavioral stress. While this is an older study, more research needs to be done on how pets influence child development and health outcomes, said Casciotti and Zuckerman. Yes, children without any siblings can also benefit from pet ownership. According to K. Hodgson and colleagues, pets help kids become more empathic and boost their self-esteem. They are also more likely to join in social and physical activities.
3. Community Building
How do pets build communities? Case scenario: pet owners participate in activities with their animal that forges connections with other pet parents. In that regard, social networks are built due to a shared concern over animal welfare, enhancing human-human interaction and increasing the likelihood of joining activities with pets and people such as dog-walking clubs. Dog walking can push people to move out of their shell or comfort zone. This can be isolating for some individuals, so public areas can help them talk with their neighbors or other walkers.
4. Protection and Empathy for Pets
Societies enforce laws and build institutions to protect pets from cruelty and neglect. However, in most jurisdictions, the regulation of pounds and shelters has not considered pets as part of the family. Rather, they consider the animals as property. For instance, if a lost pet has not reunited with its owner within a couple of days, it can be sold to a new family, to a research facility, or be euthanized. Fortunately, some regions like India, Italy, and Taiwan formulated legislation against euthanizing healthy shelter animals. It’s a different story in North America. In Canada, 4,308,921 animals were experimented on in labs. Around 17,000 dogs and cats were provided to research labs by shelters. Sadly, the animals were euthanized.
Despite these issues, the strong animal-human bond motivated individuals to create not-for-profit animal rescues to accommodate lost and abandoned animals from shelters before being put up for sale for research or euthanized. To illustrate, the Humane Society Canada aids in spay-neuter programs and advocates for and rescuing animals, including those that suffer in international dog and meat industries. Their achievements included shutting down three dog meat farms and two slaughterhouses in South Korea in 2018. The Humane Society Canada rescued 512 dogs and many of them found their forever families or homes in Canada and the US.
Loopholes to Research On Pet Ownership
These findings may motivate you to get a pet. However, Casciotti and Zuckerman said we don’t know which specific types of animals influence what types of health issues— be it physical, mental, and social well-being.
We can’t discredit scientific research or achievements done by organizations. The strong bond between animals and humans has pushed us to advocate for animal welfare and study the benefits of pets to our overall health.