My parents recently adopted a dog, which has given me a new perspective on how animals bring happiness to humans. My parents were happy people before they met Cody (pictured below), but rarely have I seen a sentient bring so much sheer joy into a family.
I’m not surprised that research shows that greater health and happiness can come from caring for a pet. One study tracked “hypertensive stockbrokers” who adopted a cat or dog; caring for their new animals lowered their blood pressure more than prescribed medicine! And you may have heard about the study that found that dog-owners tend to get more exercise than folks without a dog. Exercise is, of course, a sure way to boost health and happiness.
All that said, I never recommend getting a puppy to families with young children. We parents are usually so tapped-out that the last thing we need to worry about is another mammal. But our families can still benefit from a little animal love by taking on lower-stress pets (research points to the benefits of a fish tank for some people; I’m also a big advocate of pet rats) or by helping out with other people’s animals. My kids beg constantly for more animals, but our diabetic dog is enough for me to care for right now. So, to fulfill their pet cravings, they spend 2 hours after school caring for a friend’s chickens, duck, and quail.
Take Action: This week, find a cat to pet, a dog to walk, or a fish to feed. If you feel noticeably calmer after the experience, consider adopting!
Join the Discussion: Do your pets — or the idea of pets, if you don’t have them — bring more or less joy into your life? What about stress? Please comment below.