An important social role
Pets provide companionship - one of the obvious benefits for their owners. But they also provide far more, as shown by research and scientific studies. As more information becomes available, it can be seen that the human companion animal bond plays a considerable practical and psychological part in today's high-pressure society.
For many people, life without a pet would be unthinkable. Pets provide companionship, affection and protection. They can become playmates and partners, with unique bonds being formed between humans and the animals, which become essential parts of their lives. In today's high-pressure society the presence of pets helps many humans cope with increasing stress and anxiety.
The psychological role
The pet, in fact, plays a key role in every stage of human development. For the child, a pet animal encourages a sense of responsibility, caring and communication. The relationship instils confidence and friendship - qualities, which can endure and grow as the child moves on through life.
For adults, the pet takes on new roles - providing companionship for those living alone; giving stimulation to make contact with others as in, for instance, an owner walking his dog; and a sense of purpose for the elderly who, with restricted human communication, can give their pet their love and care.
The health benefits
For some, the presence of a pet has even more meaning. With training, pets can help their owners to lead a more normal life, as with the case of guide dogs for the blind. Animals are also being trained to help deaf people to identify and react to signals they cannot normally perceive. And, of course, many pets also serve an additional role as protectors or deterrents against intruders.
These qualities and others are increasingly recognised in scientific studies into the relationship between humans and their pets. The coexistence and cohabitation of humans and pets has become an area of investigation in which a growing number of psychologists, scientists, veterinary surgeons and doctors around the world have become interested. In turn, this has led to a wealth of information becoming available.
It has been learned, for example, that the presence of a pet can lead to a reduction in stress, a decrease in blood pressure and the lowering of anxiety levels. Scientific studies have shown that the chances of recovery among pet owning heart patients are higher than among non owners.
Similarly, the benefits for dog owners include improved health through regular exercise. In providing exercise for their dogs, the owners are encouraged into physical activity themselves.
Studies into pets and elderly people have revealed the importance of shared companionship and responsibility. For pet-owning elderly persons, particularly those living alone, it is an answer to the monotony and loneliness, which might otherwise shadow their lives.
It is not only the elderly, though; who owe so much to the presence of pets. Psychiatrists willingly prescribe the adoption of a pet to combat depression, inactivity, neurosis and stress.
The contribution pets make to society, therefore, goes far beyond the obvious role of companionship. And, in return for the impartial generosity and unbounding affection offered by so many pets, their owners increasingly recognise the need to provide proper care. Above all, perhaps, to ensure their pets receive a properly prepared diet.