Who doesn’t love to cuddle with a warm, furry animal? No matter the breed – dog, cat, rabbit, gerbil, whatever – humans generally feel a sense of calm when stroking a pet. Have you ever wondered why that is?
A 2019 scientific study at Washington State University with 249 students indicated that ten minutes of interacting with dogs resulted in a significant reduction in cortisol, a major stress hormone. Another university study found that petting a dog for just 15 minutes boosted feel-good hormones such as dopamine, serotonin, prolactin and oxytocin and even lowered blood pressure by 10%.
Besides these hormonal changes, owning an animal of any type provides us with companionship; for seniors that can be especially important. Having a pet in our home helps to fill what might otherwise be empty hours. All animals require some type of schedule for feeding and grooming, so we have to keep to a routine, which in turn provides a sense of purpose. While any pet fills that need, dogs need regular walks so owners benefit through exercise leading to better cardiovascular health overall, plus the pleasure of fresh air and meeting others.
Despite these benefits, it may not be feasible for everyone to own a pet for financial, age or housing reasons. Consider volunteering at a local animal shelter for your dose of animal joy, or possibly fostering might work. Fortunately many seniors’ residences and retirement homes recognize the value of animal friends and allow pets or have a pet visitation program for residents. Animals really can make our lives happier.
If you want to adopt or foster a pet, consider visiting psanimalshelter.