In a study conducted at City Hospital in New York, it was
found that heart patients who owned the pets were significantly more likely to be alive a
year after they were discharged from the hospital than those who didn't own pets. The
presence of a pet was found to give higher boost to the survival rate than having a spouse
We should point out in this connection that pets can be a
source of stress to some people. They may worry who will take care of their pets when they
die. In most cases, however, the need to take care of the pets give a reason for living to
many terminally ill patients, prolonging their life span.
What Type of Pet?
It is surprising that it does not matter what the pet is to
get the therapeutic benefit. It could be a dog, a cat, parakeet, a gold fish or anything
else. The only thing which matters is that the animal is of interest to you.
However, it is important that the pet you have selected fit
your temperament, living space and lifestyle. Otherwise it will be additional source of
stress. So, look over the pet and see whether the chemistry is compatible before you
decide to adopt one.
It is possible that people who own pets may have different
personality traits than those who do not. Research has found that complex, varied, and
interesting daily activity is the strongest social predictor of longevity. Pet ownership
may affect people physiologically through the soothing and relaxing effect of touch. And
speechless communication with a pet, or simply watching a cat or fish, may produce a
relaxation response with little demand on the patient.
Pet owners often feel needed and responsible, which may stimulate the survival
incentive. They feel they need to survive to take care of their pets. (Many cancer
patients with pets have lived longer because they felt that their pets need them!)
Stroking a dog, watching a kitten tumble, or observing the hypnotic explorations of fish
can be an antidote to a foul mood or a frazzling day.
Pets such as dogs and cats provide unconditional, nonjudgmental love and
affection. And pets can shift our narrow focus beyond ourselves, helping us to feel
connected to a larger world.