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Your non-human friend may be saving your life

The number of people who own a pet worldwide has increased exponentially over the years. Individuals who own pets can be found in just about every culture.  What was once a symbol of wealth and elitism has now become the loyal companion for all. In Sweden over seven percent of the population is registered as dog owners and many others have different pets.

What has changed? One theory is that being around animals makes us feel good. Several recent studies support this idea, many in the medical community have conducted studies that prove that owning a pet not only makes you feel good but is also good for you.

According to their results owning a pet actually makes you healthier. Allen R. McConnell, a professor of psychology at Miami University, states in his findings, “Pets provide meaningful social support for their owners.” The study conducted showed that people who owned pets gained a variety of physical and physiological benefits over those who did not have a companion animal in their life. People were more physically active, resulting from the need to play with and be active with their furry friend, and were less prone to feelings of loneliness or depression. Some of these benefits were not so obvious though. Responsible pet owners were also found to be more likely to be courteous to their fellow humans. The responsibility of having to take care of another living creature could be a developing factor in how well people are able to be sympathetic to the feelings of others.

These findings primarily focus on the benefits of the most common pets, cats and dogs, however any companion animal can have the same effects on an individual. Irene Rapado, a graduate of Örebro University, relates her personal experiences with the physiological benefits from her friendship with Brownie, a lop rabbit. Originally from Spain, Irene has had to deal with homesickness, Brownie the rabbit  has been a great benefit in this regard. Irene explains, “Mentally, it made me feel more relaxed, because when I was lonely or I am alone, she comes to me because she wants to be petted. So, yeah, in my personal case she makes me feel companionship.” Regarding changes in her physical condition Irene says smiling, “Physically I did not have much improvement, apart from biking more because I have to go to the pet shop and buy food and stuff.” She also mentions that  from time to time she takes Brownie for walks in the field. Though it may not seem like a lot, doctors have stated that even the simple movements associated with pet ownership can improve blood flow and respiration.

We are coming into a greater understanding of how we interact and connect with animals. Companion animals are becoming more and more the norm across the globe and the benefits for people are measurable. Perhaps in few years we will have an even greater understanding of our faithful companions and our bond can grow even closer.

/ Robert Brewster Skribent

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