November is “Adopt a Senior Pet Month.” Older pets are often at a disadvantage at shelters as potential owners find cute puppies and kittens more attractive to adopt.However, pet adoption — senior or otherwise — is actually good for you. Here are some scientifically-proven ways pet ownership improves the lives of human companions:
- Pets can boost self-esteem. Research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology demonstrates that pet owners have stronger self-esteem than non-pet-owners. Research also indicated that pet owners are more extroverted and less fearful than people without pets.
- Allergy risk is reduced. While it may seem counter-intuitive, owning a pet doesn’t make you more susceptible to allergies. Studies suggest being exposed to a pet early in life may decrease your risk of animal allergies later on.
- Pets keep us positive. Researchers say that thinking about your pet after a negative experience helps you feel less negative.
- You feel less lonely with pets. One study found that people with pet dogs indicated their social needs were fulfilled just as effectively by their pets as by their friends. Dogs, they said, provided them with a strong sense of self-esteem, belonging and meaning.
- Pets offer a sense of support. Studies revealed that pet owners feel they get just as much support from their pets as they do from family members.
- Pets incent us to stay healthy. It’s hard to sit on the couch all day and watch TV if your dog or cat is begging for attention. Whether you’re tossing balls with Rover or dangling wand toys for kitty to chase, you’re substantiating studies showing pet owners are healthier and more active than non-pet-owners.
- We feel less stress. There is evidence from animal experts that simply petting your dog or cat can help reduce your stress. Their unconditional love and the fact that they don’t judge us are other factors that make pets the best support system during stressful times.
- We attract other people. Studies find that owning a pet can improve our human relationships and attract others to us. Pets are natural conversation starters, which can draw other pet lovers to us.
- Pets can help stabilize our blood pressure. A study of stressed out stockbrokers revealed that a group given pets for the course of the study had significantly more stable blood pressure than brokers without pets. After the study, many from the control group of stockbrokers without pets went on to get a loving pet to help them manage their stress.
Ask your local shelter about adopting a senior pet. Because senior pets are usually the last to be adopted and the first to be euthanized in a shelter, you can feel good knowing that you have very likely saved a life. Senior pets offer all the advantages above and, thanks to you, have the chance to live out their lives in a loving home.