Emotional Benefits of Pet Ownership

Lazy cat

Did you know that pets can have a positive impact on owners of all ages? Good Morning America's Dr. Belisa Vranich offers professional insights on the emotional benefits of pet ownership

Dr. Vranich, does pet ownership truly have a beneficial effect on a person's emotional well-being?

Yes! The emotional benefits of pet ownership clearly have an effect on a person's well being. There are several reasons:

  • The responsibility of owning a pet gives the caretaker the experience of being needed.
  • The pet shows happiness in seeing it's human companion by purring, wagging it's tail, etc., and we all like feeling loved.
  • How beautiful/cute/unique your pet is gives you pride. Your pet becomes an extension of yourself. Whatever peculiar traits or complex tricks he learns become endearing.
  • Pets are excellent company, whether they are treated as roommates, children or even significant others. People feel coupled with them, and this gives them strength in facing adversity or boredom.

Will any pet do, or do certain kinds of pets have a greater effect on a person's well-being?

Pets that have a special dialogue/routine with their owners are the ones that have the best effect. Just like newlyweds, pets and their owners develop routines and their own language to communicate. The more intertwined their routines are, the stronger the bond.

Do you think there is a difference in the way men and women relate to their pets?

I think it depends on what they are needing in their life at the moment. If a man is needing a "buddy," his pet becomes a companion. You can tell by the nicknames the pet has - "big guy," "buddy boy," "boss".

Women seem to relate more to their pets as either children or protectors/mates, although it also happens that they are perceived as girlfriends too, but less so.

Does one sex seem to benefit more from pet ownership than the other?

No, both attach to their pets very strongly, see them as family, and mourn them intensely when they die.

Visits from therapy pets have become quite popular at elder care facilities. What kind of emotional benefits are observed in this setting?

Therapy dogs are very astute about physical and psychological pain. Eldercare people/patients tend to focus on discussing topics related to their failing health, and their relationship with a therapy dog makes the interaction all about petting, smiling, and enjoying each other in a nonverbal way. Being able to pet or hug a dog is very therapeutic. Most of these dogs also show a lot of love and seem thrilled to see their regular residents.

What about seniors or disabled adults who still live on their own? Any tips for making pet care easier so they can enjoy these benefits as well?

The availability of wee wee pads and self cleaning cat litter boxes make it easier than it has ever been for people who are housebound or physically challenged to have pets.

Many pet supply companies deliver so that carrying/shopping is not as big an issue. If you have a family member who could benefit from having a pet, know that finding the right size and personality of pet may be less of a hassle than you think, and could be very beneficial to him or her.

Do children receive any particular emotional benefits from pet ownership?

Pets often encourage children to express themselves more, to talk more. This is a wonderful opportunity! The best way to engage a pet owner to talk is to ask about his or her pet. They will tell you all the details!

Thank you for sharing your views on the emotional benefits of pet ownership with our readers. Is there any final thought you'd like to leave us with?

Even though the emotional benefits of pet ownership are clear, you should never surprise a person with a pet without first clearly knowing that they want one.

If you'd like your child or grandparent to own a pet, be available to help them through the process, continuing on a daily basis if needed. If you'd like to get your parent or grandparent a pet, consider an adult pet since its personality will be more established. That way you can best match their personalities.

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Emotional Benefits of Pet Ownership