Pet ownership can be rewarding and therapeutic for older adults. Caring for an animal can bring joy, comfort, and companionship – which help relieve stress and improve mental well-being.
Building a relationship and being responsible for meeting a pet’s needs also creates a sense of purpose and provides structure to a daily routine. Here’s a look at the many benefits of caring for a pet.
Pets Boost Mental Wellness
A companion animal is someone to spend time with, talk to, nurture, and love. Dogs and cats often give reciprocal affection, which is comforting – especially for those who might live alone.
Research has shown that caring for a pet boosts mental wellness. One study found that pet ownership provided companionship, fostered a sense of purpose and meaning, reduced loneliness, and increased socialization.
A simple tail wag, soft purr, or a spin on a wheel can trigger spontaneous smiles and happiness that lift spirits and help combat anxiety and depression.
Pets Improve Physical Wellness
Other studies show that petting or stroking a cat or dog relieves stress, which in turn can lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels and improve heart health.
Reports showed dog ownership was associated with a 33% lower risk of death for heart attack survivors living alone and 27% reduced risk of death for stroke survivors living alone, compared to people who did not own a dog.”
Furthermore, walking a dog provides physical exercise and an opportunity to get outside, enjoy fresh air, and soak up natural Vitamin D from the sun. Regular exercise can also improve your mood.
Benefits of Adopting a Pet
The multiple rewards of adopting a pet versus buying one from a store or breeder are priceless. Above all, adoption saves a shelter animal’s life.
Welcoming a shelter animal into your home means you’re giving a homeless animal companionship, comfort, and love. Millions of animals enter shelters each year. Adopting one frees up shelter space for another animal.
Plus, many shelter animals are already house trained, are spayed/neutered, have received first vaccinations, and have received health and behavioral screenings. If you adopt an older, more mature animal, most are used to living with people, and you’re giving them a second chance to be part of a loving home.
Dog vs. Cat Ownership
Both cats and dogs can be loving companions. If you’re unsure what kind of furry family member you want, these comparisons might help you decide.
Dogs typically require more time and attention than cats. For optimal health, dogs need plenty of exercise – around two to three walks per day. They also need to go outside to go to the bathroom, and you’ll have to clean up their waste.
Depending on size and breed, many dogs also require a larger amount of living space. Dogs are more social than cats. Many pooches love to initiate playing, cuddling, and other forms of human interaction. Because they go outdoors, dogs need their paws cleaned and monthly baths.
Cats are independent, clean themselves, and don’t take up a lot of physical space. They use the bathroom in a litter box that needs regular cleaning and maintenance. Most cats are indoor pets. So, you don’t need to walk them or let them outside.
Some cats love to cuddle and will spend hours snuggling on your lap. Others are more aloof and seek your attention only when they want it. Cats also enjoy playing. Plus, felines won’t beg for human food the way that dogs do.
Finally, the average cost of owning a cat is less than owning a dog.
Benefits of Pet Hamsters and Fish
Hamsters make cute pets. They like to socialize but can also entertain themselves with toys in their cage for hours at a time. Watching them play can be fun, and holding and petting them can be soothing. Hamsters clean themselves, require minimal cage cleaning, and are relatively inexpensive pets.
Watching fish swim in their colourful underwater aquarium has many benefits. One study reported that some Alzheimer’s patients who were exposed to fish tanks “appeared to be more relaxed and alert, and they ate up to 21% more food than they had before the introduction of the fish tanks.”
Other studies showed watching fish relieved stress, improved mood, lowered blood pressure, and reduced heart rates. Furthermore, upkeep for fish is less expensive as opposed to cats or dogs.
Overall, caring for a pet can spark incomparable joy, improve your mood, and many other rewards.