Our Fascination with Pets
Every month of the year has pet awareness events. For instance, June is National Adopt a cat month, it is National Zoo and Aquarium Month, and National pet preparedness month. June also has National hug your cat day, International Corgi Day, World Pet Memorial Day, National take your cat to work day, Ugliest dog day and take your dog to work day. Why do we care about animals to give them so much attention?
According to Forbes, 65.1 million U.S. households own a dog, 46.5 million households own cats and 11.1 million households own fish. 66% of US households (2/3) own pets. Americans spent $136.8 billion on their pets, up 10.7% from just last year, which turns out to be an average of $730 a year just on each dog. 38% of dog owners and 40% of cat owners got their pets from an animal shelter or rescue.
Web MD tells us that pets are natural mood enhancers where in only a few minutes with a dog, cat, or watching fish swim, we become less anxious and less stressed. Pets help keep blood pressure in check in adults, and blood pressure of children with hypertension decreases while petting their dog. Playing and petting with an animal increases levels of serotonin and dopamine (nerve transmitters known to have calming effects) and these transmitters help reduce not only depression but stress. If you own a dog, you tend to be more physically active, and being forced to walk your dog daily may be one of the main reasons animals help with our heart and stress. Dog owners walk 300 minutes a week compared to 168 minutes for non-pet owners while walking a dog leads to a 28% increase in walking speed. Web MD also reports that when children grow up in a home with a dog or cat, they are 33% less likely to develop allergies; and the same is true for kids living on a farm with large animals. So maybe pets are truly the miracle drug we have been waiting for!
We know the medical reasons for a pet, but what about the psychological advantages?
The American Psychological Association did a study, done at Miami University of Ohio and St. Louis University, where they concluded that people with pets were actually closer to other important people in their lives and received more support, not less from their friends and family. The study concluded that pets complement other forms of social support rather than compete with them, indicating there was no evidence that relationships with pets came at the expense of relationships with other people. The study also concluded that owning a pet can teach children valuable life lessons. Kids with dogs have a higher level of empathy and self-esteem, and learning to take care of an animal teaches the value of routine, accountability, nurturing, and good habits. Interacting with pets stimulates cognitive development in children. Caring for and training pets improves problem-solving skills, memory retention, and concentration in both children and adults. Being outside in a public setting with your animal increases social interaction because pets are great icebreakers and can help ease people out of social isolation and shyness.
But with all these reasons to own a pet, we still have homeless animals, and what really happens to these poor creatures? According to PetKeen, there are 3,500 brick-and-mortar animal shelters across the USA. Entering these shelters each year are 7.6 million animals- 4.2 million dogs and 3.4 million cats. 2.7 million are euthanized.
Even though every month we celebrate days honoring our pets, there is no celebration for the 2.7 million animals America euthanizes each year. We as taxpayers spend $2 billion annually to round up, house, and dispose of homeless animals, but that is not enough to keep our animal shelters running in a humane manner. You would think that such a large profitable industry like the pet industry would step in to help these rescue shelters and these poor animals in need, but we have not seen that happen as the pet industry sales and profits are increasing every year. It falls back on all of us to have the heart to help defenseless animals that can’t speak for themselves. For anyone who has ever looked into the eyes of their pet and felt that unconditional love looking back, we cannot continue letting animal shelters go underfunded and undermanned. All of us need to reach deep into our pockets to help these shelters find homes for these innocent animals; and if we don’t have the dollars to help, we should be volunteering.
Pets provide healing benefits for many of life’s invisible scars. They help us emotionally and socially. The unconditional love pets give us transcends work issues, family conflicts, death, and divorce.
Our pets don’t care if you can read or not, they don’t care about the color of your skin or if you are missing a limb. This country has a lot to fix in not only solving homelessness for our fellow citizens but taking care of the homeless animals in our lives. Volunteer at your local shelter to help these powerless animals cope with being alone. None of us want to be alone, and your simple act of kindness goes a long way for animals who can’t speak for themselves.