by Carmen Visser
Based on the research done by Growth From Knowledge in 2016, over half of the world’s population own at least one pet. If you do not own a pet, you probably know someone who does and have seen their admirable relationship first-hand.
According to PetSecure, South Africa has a population of over seven million dogs and about two million cats. When compared to other countries, we are in the top ten and top twenty, respectively. Statistics on PetSecure also show that India has the largest growing dog population and fish are the most popular pets in the United Kingdom.
Furthermore, there are many different pets found around the world. Some of these include guinea pigs, hedgehogs, hamsters, snakes, tortoises and even goats. Although these pets are more uncommon than others, the bond created between them and their owners is just as strong.
GFK found that men are more likely to own a fish than women, while women are more likely to own a dog or cat. However, men and women are equally likely to own other pets, including birds.
How is the bond formed?
The concept of pets is strange if you consider the fact that an animal, who does not understand your language, lives in your home and is likely one of your best friends. The relationship between you and a pet is formed differently to how relationships are formed between people. I like to split up the variables that form a bond between an owner and a pet into three main categories.
The first is verbal communication. While some might argue that pets cannot understand a certain language, they do respond to voices and words. For example, a parrot will copy their owner’s favourite phrase, or a dog might come running after their name is called. Both examples show love and affection, yet are not restricted by a language.
Owners also tend to talk to their pets daily. Whether it be a mature conversation like, “I was thinking of moving the couch to this side of the lounge. What do you think?” or even baby talk, “who’s a good boy?”. Either way, many people talk to their pets as if they understand. We know that scientifically they do not understand our words, but it is comforting knowing that they are listening.
An unbreakable bond between an owner and their pet is formed when the pet is looked after. This includes feeding them, bathing them, brushing their loose winter coat hair, cleaning their cage and so on. An owner becomes a parental figure. Pets look to their owners for love, protection and for their necessities. If you are unwilling to provide these, do not get a pet. They deserve better.
The final aspect which builds the relationship between a pet and their owner is affection. While one cannot cuddle with some pets, like fish, there are many other ways to show affection. According to PetPedia, 44% percent of people would prefer cuddles with their pet than with their significant other. A pets’ faithfulness and loyalty make them the ideal ‘cuddy-buddy’.
How Pets Add to Our Lives
Not only do pets improve your mood but, according do Pets.webMD they also increase the levels of serotonin in your body. This is a chemical, which contributes to your wellbeing and happiness – sometimes called the ‘happy chemical’.
Moreover, having a pet such as a dog often motivates a more active lifestyle, which boosts fitness and might help lowering cholesterol levels. Being more active also strengthens bones and the muscles around them. Research has also found out that children who grew up in homes with pets are less likely to develop allergies. Pets.webMD also suggests that cats help children avoid developing asthma.
Alongside all the direct health benefits, pets help patients with arthritis, Parkinson’s or even ADHD. In addition, therapy is found to be much more effective with a pet present. Overall, which aspect of life do pets not improve?
While your pets are only around for a small portion of your life, you are there for their entire life. Appreciate the time you have with them before they leave this earth. Whether that means giving them an extra treat or cleaning out their enclosure or even just scratching behind their ears for a few minutes longer – please do it.