HEALTHY PETS DISCLAIMER: This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your own veterinarian or doctor. Headey BW, Fu Na, Zheng R (2008). Pet Dogs Benefit Owners’ Health: A ‘Natural Experiment’ in China. Soc Indic Res. 87:481-493. Six-legged creatures might not be the first to come to mind when thinking of pets for children. But owning an ant farm can be an entertaining and educational experience for a child. Various suppliers sell habitats designed to let children directly observe ant activities. Ants can be shipped live or grown from eggs.
American philosopher Tom Regan has criticized the animal welfare movement for not going far enough to protect animals’ interests. Hodgson, K., Barton, L., Darling, M., Antao, V., Kim, F. A., & Monavvari, A. (2015). Pets’ Impact on Your Patients’ Health: Leveraging Benefits and Mitigating Risk. The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, 28(4), 526-534.
Those who work caring for the elderly say that pets pull withdrawn seniors out of their shell, provide mild activity and cardio through walking and grooming the pet, and offer a way to feel needed and connect with the world. Pet therapy can also help with Alzheimer’s Sundowners Syndrome. Nighttime can be very confusing and disorienting for folks with Alzheimer’s disease. This is when some Alzheimer’s patients try to run away or leave their home. A pet can prevent this issue by keeping those with Alzheimer’s connected and occupied.
In domestic animals it’s just easier to cultivate these relationships. Domesticating an animal takes not that many generations of breeding out the fear response-domestication of the silver fox was accomplished in only 50 years of selective breeding in Russia. However, foxes were occasionally kept as pets long before this domesticated strain was available.
As I explore in my new book , there are two problems with these claims. First, there are a similar number of studies that suggest that pets have no or even a slight negative impact on health. Second, pet owners don’t live any longer than those who have never entertained the idea of having an animal about the house, which they should if the claims were true. And even if they were real, these supposed health benefits only apply to today’s stressed urbanites, not their hunter-gatherer ancestors, so they cannot be considered as the reason that we began keeping pets in the first place.