OK, so maybe you can’t recruit your pet to be your doctor or nurse (they’d likely only respond quickly to Code Belly Rub or Code Treat), but studies have shown that pet owners are happier and healthier than non-pet owners.
In a study by Allen McConnell of Miami University in Ohio, pet owners were found to have better self-esteem, be more physically fit, and were less lonely and fearful than those who don’t own pets. 217 people were first surveyed for the study so that differences could be determined between the personalities, well-being, and attachment styles of pet owners versus non-pet owners. Then the study focused on 56 dog owners, which helped researchers find that dog owners who thought their pooch increased their self-esteem and helped them feel like their existences were meaningful had greater well-being than people who didn’t feel that their pet helped to fulfill their social needs.
While animal-assisted therapy has long been a caregiving resource to assist with a variety of people’s health needs–both physical and psychological–McConnell’s study also determined that even healthy people benefit from pet ownership. McConnell’s researchers found that because pet owners are just as close to their pets as they are to key people in their lives, pets can serve as important sources of emotional and social support.
The results of McConnell’s study, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology earlier this month, ultimately show that people–healthy people, not just elderly or ill people who look to a pet to banish loneliness or help them become more physically fit–can derive happiness and meaning from owning pets. Walking the dog can not only help a pet owner be more physically fit, but can also help to satisfy social needs; even feeding the cat can be fulfilling because this responsibility makes the pet owner feel needed. Also, keep in mind that dogs and cats aren’t the only critters who can provide companionship and promote well-being. Especially for those who suffer from allergies, remember that feathered and scaly pets can also provide feelings of satisfaction and meaningfulness.
Interactions with a beloved pet can increase a person’s overall well-being…as if you really needed another good reason to dote on, take care of, and play with your pet!