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Pets: More than just a want Psychological benefits of owning a furry friend

Nicolas Sloan, Reporter

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With Christmas right around the corner, many children all over the US dream of getting a new puppy or kitten for Christmas, and research shows that that could be a great idea. Countless studies have shown that pet-owners, compared to families or individuals without pets, show less signs of stress, higher self-esteem, are less likely to be depressed and are typically more physically fit.

Pets are also extremely beneficial to children and teenagers. Parents have reported their kids develop responsibility, verbal and social skills from having pets. Students here at Skyline also agree with this idea. “Having a pet helped teach me responsibility from a young age,” David Alonso (10) said about his cockatiel.

Pets are also a common treatment for individuals with mental disorders such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, bipolar depression and Alzheimer’s disease. Particularly in the case of PTSD, people typically have service dogs to protect them if they were to have an issue in public or at home.

Emotional Support Animals, or ESA’s, are also a common treatment for individuals with mental or psychiatric disabilities.  “Millions of Americans already rely on an ESA as a means of coping with the debilitating effects of mental illness and likewise, many college students are now opting out of pharmaceutical treatments in favor of four-legged therapy,” according to CertaPet, an online ESA certification company.  ESA’s are already used as an effective treatment worldwide, and they’re even allowed in schools. “I think being able to bring dogs to school would be good for kids with anxiety disorders,” Tyler Torres (10) said.

However, not all pets are the typical cats and dogs. Certain pets are more likely to provide certain benefits. For example, rabbits and turtles reduce anxiety, and horses showed that they made their owners feel less lonely according to studies by Shoshana Shiloh, Gal Sorek† and Joseph Terkel. The reasoning behind their studies showed that when a group of individuals petted rabbits and turtles, they showed signs of reduced anxiety. They did the same study with fake stuffed animals, which showed no effect. They concluded that stroking a living being reduced anxiety, whether hard or soft. Additionally, they found that it worked on people even if they had initially said they didn’t like animals.

. “I feel like having a pet just makes your life better in a lot of ways,” Tyler Johnson (10) said about his cockatoo.

When we hear the word “pet,” many people think of furry, soft animals, so it would only make sense that those types of animals would be the ones to provide these benefits. But oddly enough a study on gerontology, or the study of old age, done by the Department of Family Medicine and Kyungpook National University School of Medicine showed elderly people who owned crickets reported feeling less depressed as they had something to care for.

Another study conducted by Nancy E. Edwards and Alan M. Beck, professors at Purdue University, found that individuals with Alzheimer’s Disease who dined at restaurants with colorful fish ate more, ate healthier and helped them to be at ease. Overall, whether four-legged or finned, getting a new pet for Christmas could come with a lot more benefits than you realize.

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Pets: More than just a want Psychological benefits of owning a furry friend