Are pets worth the $12 billion we spend on them each year? Read on to find out.
According to ASIC, Aussies spent $12.2 billion on their pets in 2016. That might seem like a lot of dosh for a family member that does little more than doze all day while you work, and can really make you wonder – what's your pet done for you lately?
Depending on your pet of choice, bringing an animal into your family can involve a serious investment in terms of time and money. While some furry family members skate through life needing little more than a healthy diet and their annual check-up, others are prone to illness or accidents and can cost you in the thousands, and that’s before factoring in the cost of what they’ve nibbled or knocked over! However, numerous studies have proven pets more than repay the favour in a variety of ways. Other than the obvious feel-good factor, here are some benefits of having a pet:
1: Pets can reduce loneliness and improve self-esteem
It’s obvious that pets provide companionship, but time spent with your pooch, cat or overly chatty bird does more for you than simply make you feel good. Loneliness is a risk factor for mental and physical illness as well as premature cognitive decline, but if you have a pet, you’re in luck since studies have shown that spending time with your pets can help alleviate loneliness. Still more research has found pets can also boost our self-esteem simply by being there, and that they provide a similar type of social support as our human friends and family provide. You get bonus points for pets that get you out of the house and talking to people.
2: Having a pet can make you fitter
Dog lovers rejoice: We won’t argue that cheering on Goldie to swim another lap around the bowl is going to boost your fitness levels, but those with a dog will find themselves becoming more active simply by meeting their furry friend’s need for regular exercise. Even if you let them down in the walkies department, you’ll get in plenty of squats and lunges as you pick up the various items they’ve chewed up in boredom.
3: Pets can help reduce pain
Perhaps you’ve seen one of many viral posts doing the rounds on social media showing folk recovering in hospital with their dog sitting on their bed? There’s some solid reasoning behind this. Research has shown spending time with our pets can reduce our pain. One study found patients who received animal-assisted therapy while recovering from total joint replacement surgery required less pain medication than those who didn’t receive it. Another study found patients who were recovering from dental surgery recovered quicker and used less pain medications when using animal-assisted therapy.
4: Pet owners are less likely to be stressed and depressed
Pets offer a soothing presence, as well as company, and provide a nonjudgmental ear. In fact, dogs are so good at raising mood and alleviating anxiety that there are now service dogs devoted to looking after soldiers who have returned home with post-traumatic stress disorder. Another study showed significant stress reduction among primary caregivers of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder that acquired a dog. Pet owners in general seem to fare better than those who don't have pets: according to the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, people with pets had higher self-esteem, more extraverted, less fearful and less preoccupied than non-owners.
5: Pets can help keep your heart healthy
This one is really more for dog owners than people who own other types of pets (unless you’re prone to walking your canary on a regular basis). The above health benefits previously mentioned are also good for your heart. Evidence reviewed by the American Heart Association (AHA) indicates that “dog owners are more likely to exercise, have a better cholesterol profile, have lower blood pressure, be less vulnerable to the physical effects of stress, and be more likely to survive a heart attack”.
6: Having a pet can help children fight allergies
There is good news for cat and dog owners that have, or plan to have, children. Living with a pet from birth has been linked to a reduced likelihood of developing allergies when they are older. The “from birth” part is a crucial factor since research found no protective factors for those that live with a pet after the first year of life, although those who grew up with cats and dogs were half as likely to be allergic to them as teenagers.
7: Pets can help reduce blood pressure
Numerous studies have shown pet owners have significantly lower blood pressure and heart rates before and during stressful mental tasks. Not into hairy pets? Research has also shown merely watching fish lowers blood pressure and muscle tension in people about to undergo oral surgery.
Here are seven ways you can return the favour:
Keep your pet in tip-top health (and save some vet dollars) by following these preventative health tips.
- Spay or neuter your pet as soon as they are old enough. Your vet will be able to advise you on the best time to do it. This reduces unwanted pregnancies and may reduce aggression and subsequent injuries.
- Keep your pet within their healthy weight range by feeding them a balanced, nutritious diet and ensuring they get adequate exercise.
- Provide breed-appropriate toys. This is important for their mental and physical health.
- Avoid giving them human food since some of it may be toxic to pets. If you want to give your cat or dog a treat, stick to raw, uncooked bones, lean meats and small amount of deboned or canned fish.
- Take your pet to the vet at least once a year to make sure they are healthy and to detect any problems early. Consider whether pet insurance could be a worthwhile investment.
- Vaccinate your pet against diseases including rabies, distemper, parvovirus and any other vaccines your veterinarian suggests.
- Set a reminder on your phone or calendar to ensure you stay up to date on preventative medicines to keep them free from parasites, including fleas, ticks, and heartworm.