Like many people out there, I wouldn’t be without my beloved animals – especially Kiki! Most people who share their lives with a pet know the companionship, love and also healing that comes from these four-legged soul connections. Pets play a critical role in our health and wellbeing as recent studies have shown. Dr. Allen McConnell Professor of Psychology at Miami University and his team recently conducted two studies where they recruited pet owners (mostly dog and cat owners although some others were included) and compared their lives against those of non-pet owners. The results were what us pet owners have long known – our animal companions serve a huge soul-purpose in our lives and that people who have pets share a huge set of advantages over those who don’t.
The study showed that pet owners reported being less lonely, less depressed, less stressed, fitter, happier with their lives and had higher self-esteem compared with non-pet owners. It also showed that our pets also provide a shoulder (or maybe a paw) to lean on as pet owners reported receiving as much social support from their pets as they did from their parents or siblings! This feeling of social support lead the researchers to conclude that the more people saw their pets as meeting their social needs the more they reaped those benefits – in other words they felt less lonely, less depressed, more happy – and you are what you think after all!
Overall, the pet owners reported higher feelings of wellbeing than non-pet owners regardless of how many close relationships they had with people. So, it’s not just the clichéd image of the singleton cat lady who is benefiting from having a pet. Rather, having an animal brings psychological and spiritual benefits for everyone even if they already have numerous friends and relationships in their lives. However, the study did say that going out and getting a pet may not necessarily make you happier as the researchers did discover that there were key personality differences between pet owners and non-pet owners which means pet owners may have a slightly different mind set to begin with.
Remember if you are thinking about getting a pet – a pet is for life. Make sure you are ready for such a big commitment in terms of your time, ability to care for your pet and the financial upkeep that goes with it. But sharing your life with a four-legged soul companion is a wonderful way to feel loved and socially fulfilled no matter how many other meaningful relationships you have going on in your life.