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Revolutionary Stories

More Than a Friendly Fur Face, Small Pets Can Improve Your Wellbeing

Does the following situation sound familiar?
Child asks for a pet. Parent says no.

“But I neeeeeeeeed a pet!” child hollers, barely holding back the tears and rage that will soon bubble to the surface.

Needs vs. wants are sometimes tough to distinguish, especially for kids. But there’s actually some research showing that, while perhaps not a basic necessity, there are a whole slew of reasons having a pet is healthy for humans! Below, we lay out a few ...

Lonely No More
Animals provide companionship, and this wasn’t lost on people during lockdown in the COVID-19 pandemic. During the first 14 months of the pandemic, 1 in 5 U.S. households acquired a pet. This was a huge uptick from pre-pandemic rates; in the decade before 2020, pet ownership grew by 5%. In the first two years of the pandemic, ownership increased by nearly 10%!  Coming home to a pet instead of an empty house is incredibly comforting, particularly for those who live alone or are elderly. There is a deep satisfaction that comes along with caring for a pet and gaining its affection and trust. Plus, it can provide a sense of purpose for people.

Bye-bye, anxiety and depression!

Studies have repeatedly found that positive people-animal interactions provide beneficial health outcomes. These include reduced blood pressure, the release of pleasant hormones from our brains, and a subsequent reduction in stress levels, heart rate and feelings of anxiety and depression.

Hello, self-esteem!

Caring for a pet can be incredibly esteem building, especially for children who are used to being on the receiving end of care. A child who takes on this responsibility and accountability will experience a surge of pride, confidence and may see empathy and care for others increase, too. These life skills are learned by doing, and having a pet is the perfect opportunity to hone proficiencies that will serve your child well throughout life.

Welcome, improved social skills!

Do you or your family members ever talk to your pet as if it’s another (human) family member? Speaking to your pet can increase your feelings of being heard and understood as pets listen, cock their heads and physically respond in ways humans do not. Plus, pets don’t criticize or pass judgment. They don’t tell your secrets either. Communicating with your pet can increase your social skills, as does teaching them games or tricks. Children in particular stand to gain immense benefits from human-pet interactions, including learning to be patient, gentle and caring.

Help process grief and loss

The inescapable effects of grief can be buffered by having a pet to love and care for during a difficult time. We’ll all experience the loss of a loved one during our lives – pets included. Pets often don’t live as long as humans, which can be difficult, but this also gives children an opportunity to deal with loss and the accompanying grief. 

Next time your child asks for a pet, consider the above before offering an immediate “no!” You stand to benefit as much as the rest of the family.

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