Why owning a pet makes you happier and more likely to live longer

Owning a lively pet may sometimes prove exasperating, but it appears all the effort is worth it.

Pet owners are healthier, have greater self-esteem and are less lonely than those who don’t have animals at home, according to a study.

Not only that, but they are also more conscientious, extroverted and less fearful, researchers at the American Psychological Association said

Man’s best friend: Owning a pet brings with it many benefits including improved health, greater self-esteem and less loneliness, according to scientists

They believe that pets serve as important sources of social and emotional support for the average person, and not just individuals facing significant health challenges.

Lead researcher, Allen R McConnell, of Miami University in Ohio, said: ‘We observed evidence that pet owners fared better, both in terms of well-being outcomes and individual differences, than non-owners on several dimensions.

‘Specifically, pet owners had greater self-esteem, were more physically fit, tended to be less lonely, were more conscientious, were more extraverted, tended to be less fearful and tended to be less preoccupied than non-owners.’

Pet owners are just as close to key people in their lives as to their animals, the study found.

This indicates no evidence that relationships with pets come at the expense of relationships with other people, or that people relied more on pets when their human social support was poorer.

The scientists, from Miami University and Saint Louis University in Missouri, conducted three experiments to examine the potential benefits of pet ownership among what they called ‘everyday people’.

They questioned 217 people with an average age of 31 and family income of $77,000, 79 per cent of whom were women.

The group answered a survey aimed at determining whether pet owners differed from people without pets in terms of well-being and personality type.

Researchers now believe that pets serve as important sources of social and emotional support for the average person, and not just individuals facing significant health challenges

Several differences between the groups emerged – in all cases, pet owners were happier, healthier and better adjusted than were non-owners.

A second experiment involved 56 dog owners with an average age of 42 and family income of $65,000, 91 per cent of whom were women.

This group were questioned about whether they benefit more when their pet is perceived to fulfill their social needs better.

The researchers here found greater well-being among owners whose dogs increased their feelings of belonging, self-esteem and meaningful existence.

The last group, made up of 97 undergraduates with an average age of 19, found that pets can make people feel better after experiencing rejection.

Subjects were asked to write about a time when they felt excluded. Then they were asked to write about their favourite pet, or to write about their favourite friend, or to draw a map of their campus.

The researchers found that writing about pets was just as effective as writing about a friend when it came to staving off feelings of rejection.

‘The present work presents considerable evidence that pets benefit the lives of their owners, both psychologically and physically, by serving as an important source of social support,’ the researchers wrote.

‘Whereas past work has focused primarily on pet owners facing significant health challenges…the present study establishes that there are many positive consequences for everyday people who own pets.’

The study is published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology

How You Can Help Fight Animal Cruelty

Animal cruelty is something that is close to many people’s hearts. Many think of it as an abuse that is akin to child abuse, since animals are also defenseless against the hands or neglect of humans.

It tends to rouse similar anger and outrage as well, and there are now many agencies that are set up to help prevent animal cruelty, and also shelters where rescued animals find solace and comfort from their abusive or neglectful environments.

Years ago, there were not even any laws set up to protect animals from abuse, and abusers were able to get away with doing just about anything they wanted without consequence.

Now, there are animal protection laws set up in almost every state, and if you are found guilty of inhumane treatment of an animal, you are subject to anything from fines to community service, to jail time.

While we’ve come a long way in legislating animal protection laws, there is still room for improvement, as they are not stiff enough penalties in most people’s eyes, and it seems that it’s still taken rather lightly.

While I’m not aligned with the extreme mentality of animal rights groups that preach vegetarianism and use tactics that I don’t deem appropriate to get their point across, I certainly admire what they are trying to do, which is drawing attention to the animal kingdom and getting the word out that our furry friends need our help when they do not have a voice of their own to defend themselves.

One can read about stories of inhumane treatment weekly in any newspaper, and some of the stories are enough to make one nauseous. There are stories of animals left in homes without food or water, in their own waste and crawling with fleas and ticks, stories of farm animals abandoned, neglected, underfed and abused, and horrifying tales of household pets being beaten, starved, deprived of care, and even killed at the hands of the very people who are supposed to take care of them, that all still need to be addressed.

There are some steps you can take to make sure you are not a silent voice in the quest to prevent animal cruelty, you just need to be aware of your surroundings and know what to look for.

You can report any suspicions to the local police, or if you have an agency that works with abused animals, you can call on them to investigate and rectify also, usually the APL (Animal Protective League) and other similar shelters and animal rights nonprofit organizations will be able to help as well.

Some of the signs to look for you may already know, as most people who are animal lovers have a built in instinct for knowing when an animal has been abused or neglected. Many animals who have been physically abused will be hand shy.

They will not want to come near you or any other person, and may be especially leery of their owners or react in an aggressive way toward them or others.

While this does not always indicate abuse, as some animals are just tempered that way, it is a good underlying factor to look at when determining if an animal has been physically abused.

If an animal has patches of fur missing or looks extremely thin, or even if they are overrun with fleas, this may indicate neglect. Another one to look for is animals that you see outside on extremely cold days, tied to a chain for hours without any warm shelter. This is dangerous and can be abuse if the animal does not have a place of shelter to retreat to.

Likewise if they are left chained outside for hours without food or water – water of course being the most vital of the two. Use your judgment, there are always animals that may be acclimated to certain situations, but if you consistently see this, and are suspicious it may be worth an investigation by an officer of an animal protection agency or the police department.

Of course the most obvious thing to look out for is actually witnessing an act of animal abuse. If you see a person physically assaulting an animal, please make sure you report this immediately, as this is the most blatant and obvious form of animal abuse and certainly warrants a report for investigation.

If we all do our part in preventing animal cruelty, we can make this world a better and safer place for our furry friends who entrust us with their life and well being. If we don’t look out for themHealth Fitness Articles, who will?

Teenager infected with rat-bite fever from her pet rodent

A 17-year-old woman was infected with the rare, but treatable rat-bite fever, that developed from pet rodents that lived in her bedroom, report the doctors who treated her in the online journal BMJ Case Reports.

Rat-bite fever has been reported in writings dating as far back as 2300 years. It was originally described as a disease of the poor, but these days most cases occur in lab workers or in children with pet rodents.

The condition is often goes unrecognised and undiagnosed. Only 200 cases of rat-bite fever have been recorded in the USA since 1839.

Most cases of rat-bite fever involve a bite or scratch from a rodent, but there are several reports of infection without direct bacterial inoculation.

The young woman was admitted to hospital with pain in her right hip and lower back that had continued for two days and led to immobility. Over the proceeding two weeks, she had an intermittent fever, nausea and vomiting, and a pink rash on her hands and feet.

Her nausea and vomiting improved, but the fever continued, and she had tenderness of a joint in her pelvis, and pain in her right leg.

The doctors learnt that the woman had numerous pets including a dog, cat, horse and three pet rats. The rodents lived in her bedroom. One of these rats had died 3 weeks prior to onset of her symptoms.

A blood test returned positive for Streptobacillus moniliformis–the most common cause of ratbite fever.

The disease can have mortality as high as 13%, if left untreated. Fortunately, the woman underwent 4 weeks of antibiotics. After 5 days, her rash and fever disappeared, and the joint pain in her pelvis improved over the following weeks. She made a full recovery.