Many people in Australia have at least one pet. Research has shown there are many health and social benefits to pet ownership. These include lower cholesterol and blood pressure, less depression and for dog owners, better exercise habits. Owning a pet can help a shy child or adult socially as it gives the person something to talk about and the focus is away from them. When you have a pet there is always a living creature to talk to instead of talking to the walls.
Pet owners often have a special, close bond with the animals they own. Owning a pet can give a person a reason to keep living, even though times may be tough. Cats and dogs are especially suitable as pets but other animals can be suitable too. Rabbits can become very tame and tend to be quite low maintenance.
A rabbit can be a good pet for a child care centre or aged care facility. Adults and children can enjoy watching a rabbit hopping around the garden or in a large cage. Elderly people who have had a pet when they lived independently may adjust better to living in a facility if there is a pet present. A pet such as a rabbit will encourage residents to spend time outdoors watching it.
A pet rabbit rests near a resident’s wheelchair at an aged care facility. Author’s own photo
Author’s own photo
Some aged care facilities have a therapy dog that is brought in on regular visits. These days some nursing homes allow visitors to bring a pet along on visits. Residents often enjoy contact with a pet even if it is only for an hour at a time.
The benefits of pets have not always been recognised as widely as they are today. Back in the late seventies I regularly visited a family member who resided in a ‘Home’. I knew she would love to see my new kitten, Pete, so I smuggled him in for a quick visit. During my visit I was ‘sprung’ by a nurse. Luckily this woman was enlightened and asked me to bring the kitten over to other residents for them to see. I still remember the delight on their faces as they stroked his soft fur and listened to him purring.
Author's own photo
Watching fish swimming in an aquarium or pond is relaxing. Studies have shown blood pressure tends to drop and less anxiety is felt when people watch fish swimming. This is good news for people who would like some sort of pet but live in accommodation which does not permit cats or dogs.
There are inspirational movies with a dog as the central character. Some of these are real tear jerkers. I have been moved when the story line is of a dog that has rescued or saved its owner. Sometimes unconditional love and loyalty of a dog are shown as it waits patiently for a master who has died. I have cried in a number of films where dogs and cats have travelled hundreds of kilometres to get back home.
Pets, especially dogs can inspire us with their undying affection, sheer joy in the simple things and their lack of judgement of people. A dog isn’t prejudiced about race, disability, religion, age or sexuality.
Author's own photo
A dog will greet you with a tail wag and a lick first thing in the morning and will be there to meet you when you come home. Dogs like things simple. They don’t need anything expensive or fancy and are happy to play with a tennis ball or old toy.
We can learn from our dogs. While people have to find time to play, dogs just do it. They delight in the joy of running and love to go for a ride in the car.
Dogs don't hold grudges. You may not take your dog out for a walk but he won't ignore you or walk away when you want a cuddle.
Your dog never judges what you are wearing and whether you have put make up on. He/she loves you just as much when you are in your daggy gardening clothes as when you are dressed up for a night out. (Although perhaps my dog loves me best when I change into my old sneakers because we just might be going out for a walk. Sometimes I wasn’t planning on a walk but he ‘talks’ me into it with his enthusiasm and the way he keeps running to the front door.)
Author's own photo
Anatole France, French poet, novelist and journalist born in 1844 said, ‘Until one has loved an animal a part of one's soul remains unawakened.’ Many pet owners would agree with this thought.