Having pets in your house is actually Healthy: Study
Why is it good to have pets? For pet owners and lovers, it comes as no surprise that having a pet is beneficial for health and wellbeing.
Social interaction is one of those more obvious health benefits own owning a pet. Following interactions with an animal, such as petting or snuggling, there is an increase in neurotransmitters, specifically dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin, which create a euphoric feeling.
A study conducted by the Veterans Administration Medical Center shows how having pets’ impacts social interaction.
In the study, patients sat in either the presence or absence of a dog. Results indicated that social interaction among patients increased following the presence of the dogs. The interaction unleashed a cascade of “feel good” neurotransmitters, increasing the mood, pleasant emotions and overall mental health of individuals.
Human and pet interactions whether through physical contact or visual stimulation can create a positive, calming and soothing atmosphere. Physical contact with an animal, through petting or cuddling, activates touch receptors on the skin. These touch receptors then stimulate areas of the brain that are associated with reward centers as well as causing a cascade of activity resulting in the release of a variety of neurotransmitters.
An increase in oxytocin is associated with stress relief due to a decrease in anxiety and blood pressure
A study conducted at the University of Minnesota Stroke Institute in Minneapolis illustrated that pet owners, particularly cat owners, experienced a 30 percent decrease in heart attack or stroke.
The human and animal relationship also has been shown to decrease cholesterol and triglyceride levels The decrease in cortical, cholesterol and triglyceride levels in conjunction with the increase in oxytocin all contribute to aiding in the health of an individual’s cardiovascular system, therefore, decreasing the risk of a heart attack or stroke.
Helps with anxiety
Several studies illustrate a reduction in anxiety and an increase in sleep due to interactions with animals. In one such study, 230 patients were referred to animal therapeutic sessions. Data were collected prior to and following the animal therapy session with results showing a significant reduction in anxiety following the session.
This study illustrates the significant impact animals have in helping to reduce anxiety during times of duress, though more research is needed to understand the underlying mechanism.
Another study conducted by the Mayo Clinic illustrated that 41 percent sleep better due to the presence of the pet in bed, while only 20 percent describe a sleep disturbance due to it.
This may, in part, be due to the feelings of safety, comfort and the cozy atmosphere that the presence of animals creates. Improvements in sleep lead to other health benefits including warding off illness, increased memory, succinct mental processes, a decrease in stress and improvement of mood.
The Holy Purr
While the effects that cats and dogs have on humans are similar in many ways, cats have one crucial difference that puts them at an advantage to be more beneficial to humans than dogs. Cats purr While purring helps to soothe, calm and lull people to sleep with its rhythmic pattern and vibrations, purring has also been shown to occur at frequencies often used in therapies to heal the human body. Studies have shown therapeutic vibrations can aid in bone growth, fracture healing, pain relief, swelling reduction, wound healing, muscle growth/repair, and increased mobility of joints.
Purring is often compared to rhythmic chanting, which is used in different cultures to aide in a healing process or to create a meditative or calm state. The vibration of the cat purr, in conjunction the sound of the purr can lull a person into relaxation.
Despite the differences, pet owners benefit from the interactions they have with their pets and with other individuals due to their pets. The increase in oxytocin, the love hormone, causes a decrease in the stress hormone cortisol. The effect of all this together is an increase in mood, better sleep, a decrease in blood pressure, and a more relaxed feeling.