The proven benefits of keeping a pet
Children with pets develop their sense of responsibility and caring for others
Abu Dhabi - Children with pets are less egocentric, couples tend to be closer and companion animals are the best buddies one can have
Doctors and pet lovers said there are great health benefits in caring for a pet, including physical, mental and emotional well-being, going well beyond the companionship animals provide.
British Veterinary Centre veterinary surgeon Dr Jose Botte said a little time with a pet daily is like therapy for humans. "Pets promote a general well-being sensation and reduce the feelings of seclusion. They help to bring meaning to older people's lives, and children who have pets are - in general - less egocentric. Caring regularly for a pet promotes a feeling of accomplishment and people with psychological problems generally feel happier if they have a pet to look after.
"Early exposure of children to pets reduces the probability of suffering from allergies in the future. It is believed exposure of mothers to companion animals during pregnancy could be related to a higher immunity of the baby."
Botte said couples with pet also tend to be closer, feel more accomplished in their marriage and interact more with each other and with others.
He pointed that animals have been extensively used by psychiatrists and psychologists in treatments.
"Subconsciously, owners often talk to their pets as if they were human, allowing them to unburden themselves of their problems, fears and worries without the fear of being judged."
Companion animals are the best buddies one can have. "They are always ready for a walk in the park or to play fetch, and always eager to greet us when we get home. Playing is a fundamental process in the social, intellectual and physical development of children, there is nothing better for a child than to have a dog around and always be happy to play," Botte added.
A psychologist at Universal Hospital Abu Dhabi said pets helps fight loneliness in life by providing unconditional love. "Study after study shows that anyone who has ever spent a sick day in bed with his cat or dog knows that having and caring for a companion animal is great for your physical and emotional health," Dr Dolly Habbal, clinical psychologist at the hospital said.
She said on an emotional level, owning a pet can decrease depression, stress and anxiety. Pets also help in developing social skills.
"It decreases feelings of loneliness, anxiety and isolation by providing companionship. This seems to help the owners, who live by themselves, to feel less lonely, since it can provide a sense of social support, and pets also give them a reason for living by providing them with unconditional love as they don't judge them," Dolly said.
A specialist at Burjeel Hospital Abu Dhabi said pets can drive away many health problems.
"With time, you build relationship with your pet. Pets like dogs understand your emotions and feelings. You converse with them and this helps improve your emotional health," Dr Mohamed Ahmed Raslan Omar, specialist, internal medicine, said.
He noted pets have a great impact on health and drives away many problems. "Having a pet helps to lower your blood pressure, decreases risks of heart attack, lowers rate of developing allergies and asthma."
Omar said walking a pet out is a great way to relax and de-stress. "It will also be an exercise. It helps to keep you physically fit. You may have a conversation with your pet while on a stroll and it impacts your mental health."
Omar added spending time with pets is a far better alternative than sitting with laptops and surfing websites or playing video games.