"I think I could turn and live with the animals. They are so placid and self-contained," writes American poet Walt Whitman (Schellenberg 1). Yes, pets have been part of human culture throughout history, and in American households, they are more common than children. It is reported that 58% of U.S. households have at least one pet, whereas only 35% have children (Whitaker; Witherell 76). Owners spend billions of dollars each year on pet food, accessories, and veterinary care, but apparently pets give back, too (Schellenberg 1). Medical studies show that pet companionship offers concrete health benefits (Simross 14). While only in the past few decades have scientists become interested in the benefits of pets on human health (Schellenberg 2), "as far back as Plato and Socrates, there were admonishments for people to spend time with animals. . .for their health" (Simross 14).
"Researchers into the impact of animals on our health points to a clear relationship between the presence of pets and significantly better physical and emotional well-being" (Witherell 76).
Pet owners reported fewer headaches, fewer bouts of indigestion, and less difficulty sleeping in one study (Avanzino). Also, interaction with animals is shown to reduce blood pressure and heart rate, subtle changes with enormous health benefits (Whitaker; Schellenberg 2). For example, a large Australian study reported in 1992 indicated that pet owners are at lower risk for heart disease than non-pet owners because of lower total cholesterol and triglyceride levels and lower blood pressure (Schellenberg 2). A recent study at UCLA found that 37% of Medicare patients who owned pets visited their doctor less frequently and seemed to tolerate stressful events better (Whitaker). These are only the physical benefits.
"Being with animals. . .is just good for our hearts and souls. We . . .know that...