By Darla Shelden, City Sentinel Senior Reporter
STILLWATER – Studies have shown pets are good for both mental and physical health.
Rachel Morse, Oklahoma State University Extension mental health specialist with the Oklahoma 4-H Youth Development program explains what exactly this statement means.
“It means they can improve the mental and physical wellbeing of any pet owners, not just those who are facing health challenges such as cancer, depression or some other illness,” said Morse,
“Research has shown that pet owners had greater self-esteem, were more physically fit, tended to be less lonely, were more conscientious, tended to be less fearful and were more extroverted,” she continued.
“Pets also have been a great source of comfort and company for individuals who have had to transition from a bustling office space to their own quiet living room during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Morse added. “Others may have still been able to go into the office for work but have otherwise kept themselves close to home.”
Studies show that pets help relieve stress their owners are experiencing.
“Pets are good, non-judgmental listeners, and they’re intuitive. They can sense stress, fear and sadness, as well as happiness and joy,” Morse stated.
Research has also shown therapy animals have proven to decrease stress levels even hours after a short interaction.
“Dogs seem to hone in on body cues and know when to nudge a person or wander over for a scratch behind the ears,” Morse said. “Pets also can teach us about self-care.”
Morse recalled while working at home during the pandemic, she would get wrapped up in her work all day. Her cat, Miriam, could sense Morse needed a break and would repeatedly paw at her.
“It annoyed me at first, but I realized I hadn’t taken a break all day. It’s so easy to go for days without stepping outside, so I started taking Miriam outside daily so we both could get some fresh air and sunshine to change up our routine,” she said.
“Pets and their owners take care of each other,” Morse said. “They really can help us through tough times.”
While most studies focus on traditional pets like dogs and cats, any animal can be a therapy pet, according to Morse. Some people find birds to be calming, or perhaps a hedgehog, a bearded dragon or even a tarantula. It’s important to find the pet that works for each individual.
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