Online edition of India's National Newspaper
Thursday, Apr 13, 2006

Metro Plus Chennai

Indulge your pet fancy
Pets are the ultimate de-stressors,

Pampered pets and happy householders

There can be no argument about the fact that pets are
 great company, wonderful partners in fun and grateful
 recipients of your affection. A lesser-known fact is
that pets play a central role in the state of your
 well-being and help you keep stress levels down.

Pets have always been known to give solace,
 comfort, enjoyment and entertainment to their owners.
 Dogs act as protectors and do an excellent job of
safeguarding the person and property of their
 owners. Labradors and Golden Retrievers are
eye-seeing dogs for the visually challenged.
Domesticated animals are fine-tuned into their
owners' state of health and well-being; they
sense when we feel ill or have a touch of the
blues. They have the ability to raise our spirits,
reduce our anxiety, lower our blood pressure,
slow down heart rates and generally improve
our mood. Indeed, pets are great de-stressors.
 There is nothing more uplifting than arriving
home and being greeted at the door by the
unbridled love of a dog or cat or even by
the raucously cheerful welcome of a parrot.
Studies reveal that the simple act of watching
 fish in a fish tank can calm a person, as can
 the very act of petting a dog or cat, which
releases `feel-good' hormones in us, including
 serotonin, prolactin and oxytocin.

People who do not have pets have been found
 to suffer from persistent fears, increased
 feelings of panic, frequent headaches and to
 be taking more medication for stress-induced
 illnesses than pet owners.

Unconditional love
Think about it. Everything to do with a pet calls for
 getting involved in a pleasurable activity, outside
of oneself. It could be taking long walks with
your pet, playing with the animal, bathing and
grooming it. Many people treat their pets as
 they would children and reap benefits that
 may not always be a given with children,
 unconditional love being one such benefit!

The effect of pets on children cannot be dismissed
lightly. Children who have pet animals at home have
 been found to have stronger immune systems and
are less likely to take sick days from school. This
is more so in the case of small children. Having a
 cat or dog exposed children to more infections early
 in life, thus boosting their immune systems. Pets also
 help the ailing, in particular, Alzheimer's patients.
 Certain kennel clubs abroad organise monthly pet
 therapy sessions with senior citizens and ailing people.

Healing gesture
The empathy felt by cats and dogs for ailing or recuperating
 owners has been well documented. Mallika Ramachandran
 talks of how her Goldens, Shaggy and Bobo, sit by her
 sickbed the times she's home after undergoing surgery.
 "It's as if they want to comfort me with their presence.
And I do feel comforted, it's such a healing gesture."

Mallika Obeid who keeps as many as four dogs and
seven cats in her house, says that cats suffer from
 bad press, in that they are perceived to be selfish,
cold and unfeeling. "That's not true," says Mallika.
"My cats invariably know when I'm not feeling too
well or feeling down. They come curl up around
me, sit in my lap, stretch at the foot of my bed,
act like a living, purring hot water bottle!"

How can pets not help us de-stress? They bring
 joy to our daily life, give us something worthwhile
to do, boost our self-esteem, aid us in overcoming
 feelings of loneliness, help us become more outgoing,
 encourage activity, help us cope better with all
the adversities of life. So, be it a dog, cat, fish, bird,
rabbit or whatever your choice of pet, go get
yourself a de-stressor. It's a great way to stay
 healthy whilst having much fun.


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