According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, 44% of households in the United States have a dog and 35% have a cat. Those who own pets know the feeling you get when a purring cat curls up in your lap or a dog shakes his entire body to greet you. Scientists are now validating what these pet owners already knew; that having a pet makes you feel better. Research has proven that pet owners have lower blood pressure, cholesterol, stress, depression and loneliness than those who don’t own pets. However, experts are realizing that it’s not just dogs and cats that can provide comfort; here is a list of animals (other than dogs and cats) and the relief they provide:

Rabbits and turtles: In one study, a stressed-out group of adults were told to pet a rabbit, a turtle or their toy forms. The toy had no effect, but stroking a live animal, whether hard-shelled or furry, relieved anxiety. What’s interesting about the study is that petting an animal affected people regardless of whether or not they initially said they liked animals. So even people who don’t consider themselves animal lovers, can lower anxiety levels just by petting an animal.

Lisa Acho Remorenko

Fish: It’s been proven that animals have the ability to help people focus. In one study, people at an Alzheimer’s disease facility ate their meals in front of aquariums that were filled with brightly colored fish. The result: they were more attentive, ate more, got better nutrition and were less prone to pacing.

Crickets: In a 2016 study published in the journal of Gerontolgy, elderly people who were given five crickets in a cage became less depressed after eight weeks than a control group. The act of caring for a living creature seems to make a difference, even if they’re not cuddly.

Horses: Horses have been involved in medical treatment in Europe since the 1860s. Studies have shown that simply grooming a horse can reduce PTSD symptoms in children and adults.

Guinea pigs: While I’m not always a proponent of pets in the classroom, one study showed that when children with autism had a guinea pig in their classroom, they were more social with their peers, smiled and laughed more, and showed fewer signs of stress.

For those who are unable to own a pet, the good news is that the mere presence of an animal can have some calming effects. Buy a bird feeder and become a backyard bird watcher. Visit your local park and observe wildlife. Even turning on a nature show on television can have a calming effect.

Potential pet owners should consider more than their mental and physical health before adopting a pet. People should acquire a pet because they want the lifelong relationship; the added bonus is the physical and mental health benefits that come along with it. Pet ownership shouldn’t be entered into lightly as it is a big responsibility. Once you are ready for a pet, visit: petfinder to find your local animal shelter or rescue group and adopt rather than shop for a pet. There are millions of homeless pets just waiting for the right person to come along. Stop by an animal shelter today and improve the life of a homeless pet as well as your own.


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