The benefits of a good pet

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, November 18, 2014

There’s something special about having a good cat or dog waiting at home after a long day of work. Pets can be a lovable companion and a source of comfort for many people. Recent psychological research supports the idea that pets might even be valuable to a person’s mental health.

In a study conducted at the Miami University, Professor Allen McConnell found pet owners to be more outgoing, more physically fit and less lonely. He also discovered that pet owners exhibited healthier relationship styles than those without a cat or dog.

While McConnell said this study was correlational, he conducted another study in which subjects were exposed to social rejection. The 97 participants were separated into three groups after their rejection and asked to either: write about their best friend, draw a map of the campus, or write about their pet.

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Those who were asked to draw the map still felt dejected upon leaving the experiment, while the participants in the other two groups left feeling positively about themselves despite the earlier feeling of rejection. McConnell found no difference in the level of happiness between the groups who wrote about their best friends and pets.

In this instance, people who confided to a pet felt the same way as anyone who confided in a close friend or family member.

There is another example of this in an unlikely setting. Inmates of the Indiana State Prison participated in a prison cat program, in which death row inmates were given cats to look after in their cells. While animal activists were worried about the program at first, the results have been overwhelmingly positive. Cat Behaviorist Diana Partington writes that through her interviews with the inmates, the men insist that the cats have calmed their anger and given them something to love.

There appears to be ample evidence that in the right situation, pets can have a positive impact on a person’s life. With plenty of animals available for adoption throughout the area, bringing home a four-legged companion is something everyone should consider.