For years we’ve been hearing that pets are good for our health and, today, 62 percent of all households in the United States own a dog or a cat. That compares to 56 percent in 1988. In 2011, pet owners spent a total of $51 billion–and that number is expected to increase in 2012. Of course, a big reason is there are just more pets–but, overall, they’re now, more than ever, seen as part of the family.
Everyone in the family absorbs the energy from each other so, in effect, their problems become ours, whether it’s a spouse, 2-legged child or 4-legged one. As one vet recently said, “If someone comes in with an overweight pet, 9 times out of 10, the owner will be overweight as well.”
So why have pets become such a big part of the family?
- Americans have about a third fewer close friends today than they did 20 years ago — averaging two rather than the three they had, on average, in 1985—and pets fill those vacuums. Other interesting stats include:
- Nearly a third of all pet owners say they’d rather rather chat with their cat after a long day than anyone else, and 39% say their cat is more likely than a romantic partner to pick up on their current mood.
- Almost 95% of pet owners say their pet makes them smile at least once at least once a day and there have been multiple studies showing that pets lower blood pressure, alleviate depression, and boost mental and physical resiliency.
- In 1994, roughly 15% of Americans reported increased anxiety in their lives. By 2009 that number had risen 49%, and it’s predicted to be even higher now. Want the SCIENTIFIC reason why pets help us reduce stress? It’s simple, really. When we cuddle, play with, and even just look at our pets we get a hefty boost of oxytocin, our body’s naturally occurring feel-good, stress-relieving, emotional-bonding hormone. So do our pets, by the way. Which makes all parties more relaxed and happy, and more deeply bonded.
When it comes to wellness, humans and non-humans aren’t really that different. Our pets get many of the same illnesses we do, from the simple common cold to the very common arthritis–and the even more serious illnesses like cancer. They also get stressed-out; many don’t think that can happen but, truthfully it does–did you know the German Shepherd is one of the most stress-prone animals around? Animal waistlines are expanding as rapidly as pet ones; in fact, according to the AMERICAN ASSOCIATION FOR PET OBESITY PREVENTION, 54 percent–that’s 88.4 million cats and dogs– of all pets in the United States are classified as overweight or obese by their veterinarians. Simply, that means pet waistlines are expanding as rapidly as human ones.
So let’s think of everyone, pets included, when considering family wellness and nutrition!
Irene Ross is a certified nutrition and health coach who helps people alter unhealthy habits so they can balance their lives. A wellness educator, for both the 2-legged and 4-legged, she conducts speeches, lunch ‘n learns, workshops, groups and individual classes.
Author of the e-book, Sugar’s Sour Story and of the forthcoming book, 25 Ways to Fire Up Your Day: Increase Energy, Get More Done in Less Time, Balance Your Life, her website is: http://www.irenefross.com.