Benefits of Pet Ownership
National Love Your Pet Day is celebrated on February 20th. Research continues to demonstrate the many health benefits of owning a pet. A recent study showed dog owners were 30 minutes more active on a daily basis than people who don’t own a dog.
Will not only owning a pet perhaps increase your opportunities for exercise, it will create opportunities for creating a nurturing home environment by having someone to care for in addition to yourself. The companionship they provide helps manage stress, anxiety, loneliness and depression. If you own a pet that is at home outdoors, like a dog or a horse, engaging with them in this environment connects you – both with nature and other humans – supporting socialization and thus your sense of belonging in the world. Regular walking and/or playing with your pet can also lower your blood pressure and lower your cholesterol levels.
So, for those of us who own a four-legged or feathered friend – or for those considering becoming an animal parent – below are some intention-setting ideas to consider to celebrate our pets:
- Massage. Animals enjoy massages just as much as people. So, if you have never massaged your pet before, consider offering one to your pet to deepen your connection. I might suggest applying gentle pressure (think Swedish massage rather than deep tissue) to start and watch your pet’s facial responses. Just like in our own bodies, massaging the back and neck areas will release tension, but don’t forget the head and face too. If your pet companion is a bird or turtle, you can massage them too!
- Special Meal. Perhaps offering your pet a special meal to celebrate your connection. If you feed your pet store bought food, perhaps consider preparing a meal from fresh foods instead. Maybe cook a meal you both can eat together! If you already feed your pet a raw diet, perhaps research a new recipe that might include a new vegetable to try.
- PLAY. Just as humans have a basic need for fun, so do our animals. Consider buying your pet companion a special toy and set aside some time to play with them. Or you might consider running around with them instead. Allow their playfulness to invite your inner child out to play and let loose!
- Donate to Pet Charities. Consider making a donation to one of the following non-profit organizations dedicated to animals, perhaps in the name of your pet: ASPCA, Best Friends Animal Society, The Humane Society, or World Wildlife Fund.
- Adopt. Have you been considering adding another pet to your family, perhaps a second (or third) dog or cat to give your current pet some companionship? Most domesticated animals are social beings and prefer not to be left alone. In fact, many dogs and cats have been known to suffer from separation anxiety when their owners leave them alone for extended periods of time. So perhaps take your pet shopping for a sibling to celebrate Love Your Pet Day this year!