Wagging for Wellness
Studies have shown that children raised with animals in their homes are healthier, both physically and emotionally.
By Shannon Mondesir, Brooklyn College
Pets are the best friends that a student could ask for, because they’re always there for you.
If you’re angry with your parents, perhaps you rant to your cat who lounges in your arms while you stroke its back, the soft fur calming you down as you go on and on about the unfairness of it all. When you were rejected from a graduate program at your dream school, maybe you cried to your big, fluffy Golden Retriever who is more than happy to press itself against you as you dampen its fur with your tears. When you’re full of stress and anxiety, riding your horse may easily get your mind off of things.
Roughly sixty-two percent of U.S. households own a pet of any kind, whether it be the traditional dog or cat, or the more eccentric route of snakes and African-native fish. Despite whatever specific pet you have, sympathy must be given to those without any pets, because to not have an animal to love or to love you is a disadvantage.
Most people agree that animals are a blessing in disguise. To seal this claim, studies have been done to further the debate as to why pets are a necessity, and here are the reasons why.
1. Companions Foster Compassion
These terms go hand in hand; they both mean to understand and care about the feelings of others. Growing up with an animal, a living being unlike humans because of their lack of speech and general physical differences, helps raise your level of compassion because you now have a living being that depends on you to survive.
Along with companionship comes responsibility, as domesticating cats and dogs results in them in turn relying on their human caretakers, namely their owners, to keep them alive.
Having an animal to care for draws your selfishness unconsciously from “I care about me and only me” to “Oh no, Mittens doesn’t have any more cat food!” thus enabling compassion, not only onto your animal, but perhaps at some point in the future to beings of your own species. Famous philosopher John Locke suggested that every child have an animal in order for them to grow up loving all creatures.
2. Health Benefits
You might think that owning an animal might arouse allergies or sicknesses, especially for those who don’t believe in owning one for that reason. On the contrary, there are actually many studies that attest to animals improving your health and preventing any allergies that you may have growing up. There was a study by the “Pediatrics” journal that claimed that living with a dog during your first year of life can improve your immune system by 31 percent.
Another study done by a pediatrician in Georgia gathered large groups of babies and studied them up to the age of seven, and concluded that children who are exposed to two or more dogs or cats are less than half as likely to develop common allergies as kids who do not have pets
Armed with this information, now you can approach your parents and blame your many allergies on them for not allowing you to have a pet that may have prevented your susceptibility from ever cultivating.
3. Depression and Anxiety
How many people are lonely, may not have many friends or have only a few that they feel comfortable talking to about their problems? Having a pet is great because, unlike human beings, they cannot respond or judge you for anything you might have to say. You can hold onto your pet (if they allow you) and talk their ears off about everything that you wish to say to someone. Though they may not understand what you’re saying, their presence is enough and that means a lot to those suffering from depression or loneliness.
It has been shown that having a pet raises levels of serotonin and dopamine, both neurotransmitters that contribute to a certain level of depression if low. Pets reduce stress and anxiety levels and, honestly, all of that aside, simply nothing beats a companion whose love radiates off of them when they’re around you.
Now, if you haven’t grown up with a pet, does this mean you are a depressed, angry lunatic? Not really. However, when or if you ever become a parent one day, consider the benefits of having your children grow up with another animal.
This isn’t a cookie-cutter, end-all-be-all recipe for the perfect children just because they have a pet, but with all these studies on how pets can benefit not only the physical but mental state of a child, it’s definitely something to think about.