When I was five years old, I persuaded my parents to let me adopt a kitten. For more than 10 years, that cat listened to my secrets, consoled me in my darkest moments and (purr purr) made me smile. Since then, I’ve owned (and been owned by) multiple pets, all of whom have enhanced my life emotionally, physically and spiritually. If you’ve considered pet adoption, or have a pet now, read on to learn how a pet can enhance every aspect of your health. And if you don’t have a pet, please recognize the rewards of rescuing a pet from your local shelter.
Creator of “Dogs in Cars,” professional pet photographer Keith A. Hopkin recalls having a Lhasa Apso named Ollie as a teenager. Reflecting on that relationship and his current friendships with dogs, he notes, “I’ve never seen a pet owner in a bad mood while with their dog. There’s nothing like seeing your animal experiencing life. I think we sometimes aspire to living a simple, happy life like they seem to do and they remind us of these things every single day.” And in addition to encouraging you to be more active, pets provide companionship and unconditional love. As Keith says, “There is something so rewarding about how they truly seem to appreciate your love. They are always there for you when you come home. No matter what your day was like, you know you have your little friend at home who can’t wait to see you.”
Multiple studies support Keith’s comments. Owning a pet can reduce your blood pressure, help you get more exercise and, in some cases, even help those with conditions ranging from panic disorder to Alzheimer’s. Researchers at New York State University reported that pet ownership wins over meditation in lowering blood pressure when you’re stressed, and UCLA conducted a study revealing that owning a pet results in better overall health. In addition, a new study showed that pets can help women living with HIV/AIDS to manage their chronic illnesses, according to the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing at Case Western Reserve University. “Pets gave these women a sense of support and pleasure,” said Allison R. Webel, instructor of nursing. When discussing the effect their pets have on their lives, one cat owner said, “She’s going to be right there when I’m hurting.” Learn more about the relationship between you and your pet by clicking here to get “For the Love of a Dog: Understanding Emotion in You and Your Best Friend.”
Although dog owners typically increase their exercise time after adopting their pets, cat owners need to be proactive in finding ways to encourage their furry little friends to move with them. My tips:
- Studies show that indoor cats are healthier, so keeping your cat active indoors requires imagination and the right toys. To the rescue, Petco, which has become my go-to for getting kitty to get grooving and moving. Among her favorites: the Cat Dancer Cat Charmer and the FroliCat BOLT Laser Pet Toy.
- I love my cat, Miss Kitty, who I adopted from the local animal shelter two years ago – but I hate having my furniture destroyed. After experimenting with a few different scratching posts, I recommend the TRIXIE Pet Products Scratching Wave (click for details) and SmartCat Bootsie’s Combination Scratcher (click to order).
- Let your cat lounge in style with the elegant Imperial Cat Scoop Scratch and Shape (click for details).
- Also on the list of pet peeves (ahem): Piles of cat fur everywhere. Must-have for pet owners: the easy-to-use, lightweight and inexpensive BISSELL Natural Sweep Dual Brush Sweeper (click to buy now).