Wouldn’t it be amazing if there was a wonder-drug that could alleviate many of the aspects of ageing that brings us down? There is in fact such a thing, but it doesn’t come in a medication box. The answer lies instead in a furry form!
You might be surprised to learn that there aren’t many things about getting older that an animal can’t help with. If you haven’t considered what a great addition a pet might be, take a look at the strong advantages a new four-legged member of the household could bring, and what to consider before taking the plunge.
Boosted Psychological Health Through Animal Affection
As much as we look after our pet, they look after us too. There are few things more comforting than an affectionate lick and loving gaze from a dog or a cat curled up on our laps in the evening. This interaction and affection not only wards off loneliness but gives us something to focus on outside of ourselves which can be a joyous distraction from daily aches and pains. Sharing our space with a beloved pet reduces stress and anxiety by triggering the release of feel-good hormone oxytocin and reducing the “fight or flight” hormone cortisol which contributes to feel frazzled. A pet in the home has even been shown to fight depression and improve memory; all while helping us to relax and making us laugh.
Your Furry Friend Keeps The Doctor Away
At this point you might be imagining a handsome, devoted canine not letting the doctor through the front door but that’s not quite what I mean! A four-pawed friend can literally help us live longer by boosting our immune system, leaving us much more robust when it comes to allergies and reducing risk of disease. Pet ownership promotes heart health, impressively reducing blood pressure, cholesterol and triglycerides in one fell swoop. With an animal around we are likely to require less medication and to need fewer visits the doctor, not to mention we may recover more quickly from illness and medical treatment. To add to this roster of animal super-powers, pets can sometimes sense when we are ill. If your pet acts strangely around you and you can’t figure out why, don’t only check out their health – pets have been documented to sense illness in their owners, ranging from detecting cancer to giving an early warning for seizures and diabetic attacks.
Get Moving, Get Social
When our bodies feel tired it can be difficult to find the motivation to move about, even though we know it’s good for us. Particularly when we are feeling low, doing something for ourselves can feel just out of reach but looking after a pet can motivate us to get active, on a small or large scale which in turn can provide a surprisingly boosting sense of achievement. We can play with a cat or take a dog for a walk, and the benefit is not only in our own movement but it can be a great opportunity for social interaction too. Whether you find yourself chatting about dog tricks in the park or discussing the zany effects of catnip with a pet-shop sales assistant, as pet owners we can find ourselves making connections we didn’t anticipate.
What To Consider Before Bringing A New Pet Home
Whether you are choosing a pet for yourself or an elderly friend or family member, before committing to pet ownership think carefully to ensure this responsibility is a benefit rather than a burden. If the intended guardian is relatively mobile a dog could be perfect to keep them active, but for those with physical limitation a cat who only needs basic care and cuddles could be much wiser. While a pet is strengthening to the immune system, great hygiene practices with our animals ensure we don’t mitigate these effects! Consider if support might be necessary for things like trips to the vets, carrying pet food and keeping things clean, and consider what back up options you have if the intended owner’s health declines further as your furry family member will still need loving care.
Lastly, the option of adopting an older animal from a rescue centre could be an ideal fit for an elderly person. You can skip the boisterous puppy or kitten phase and work with rescue staff to find an animal with character and training suited to your needs. In rescuing an unwanted animal you can know that you have given this pet a new lease on life which is a perfect reciprocation for all those great gifts a pet can offer in return. Whatever animal you choose, prepare for an unexpected boost in health and happiness and a friend with the capacity to bring a smile on both good days and bad.