We noticed this year on our Facebook page that every time we posted a picture of a dog or cat, it was shared five times more than any other picture we posted. In this modern world of us all moving in so many different directions at such a high speed, why do people slow down to smile, laugh and gush about pets?
We have all read about the medical reasons to have a pet. WebMD in an article this summer told us that pets are natural mood enhancers where in only a few minutes with a dog or cat or watching fish swim, it makes us feel less anxious and less stressed. They said pets help keep blood pressure in check and children with hypertension lowered their blood pressure while petting their dog. Pets are good for your heart, help lower cholesterol and help fight depression. People who own dogs tend to be more physically active; and in reality walking your dog daily may be one of the main reasons animals help with your heart and stress. WebMD went on to say that researchers have found that when children grow up in a home with a dog or cat, they are less likely to develop allergies and the same is true for kids who live on a farm with large animals. So maybe pets are the miracle drug we have all been waiting for!
The Hartford Towns paper reported last month that the American Pet Products Association (APPA) in their latest 2012 survey said 62 percent of U.S. households own a pet, which would be 72.9 million homes. While the number of cats outnumber dogs by eight million (86.4 million cats versus 78.2 million dogs), more households have dogs (46.3 million with dogs and 38.9 million with cats). Americans will spend $53 billion this year on food, supplies, vets and other services for our pets. So with October being National Pet Wellness month, it looks like two thirds of America needs to make sure their pet is well taken care of this month.
America is obsessed with our pets. As The Huffington Post reported, the Walker Art Center, a well-regarded museum of modern art in Minneapolis, presented in late August its first "Internet Cat Video Film Festival" to showcase the best in feline web videos. They received 10,000 submissions of one-minute cat videos and picked the top 70 which were shown on an outdoor screen at the museum.
We know about the medical reasons for a pet, but what about the psychological advantages? The American Psychological Association published a study done at Miami University of Ohio and St. Louis University where they concluded that people with pets were closer to other important people in their lives and received more support from these people, not less. So the conclusion is that pets complement other forms of social support rather than compete with them indicating no evidence that relationships with pets came at the expense of relationships with other people.
I heard on NPR Radio that Clifford, the "big red dog" is celebrating his 50th anniversary. There have been 90 Clifford books selling 126 million copies in 13 languages. Clifford kept getting bigger and bigger because of all the love children showed him eventually ending up 25-feet-tall, full of kids' love.
Not every animal is a Clifford. According to the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), there are close to 5,000 community animal shelters that house up to 7 million animals a year. Of these, 60 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats are euthanized each year. For anyone who has ever looked into the eyes of their pet and felt that unconditional love looking back, we cannot continue to let these animal shelters go underfunded and under manned. This is National Pet Wellness Month and all of us need to reach deep in our pockets to help these shelters find homes for these innocent animals. Learn more from the American Humane Association or the ASPCA, or get your teen involved in the site DoSomething.org where it will teach them how to fight to help homeless shelter animals get adopted with a new app for their phone. Or go to the DollarDays October promotion on Facebook that is taking nominations for community animal shelters to share in $5,000 of products to support the running of the shelters.
Pets complement our social lives with other humans. They also comfort us when we are all alone. These pets sitting in these cages at these animal shelters are all alone with no one to comfort them. Most won't make it out of these cages. During this month honoring our pets, these other innocent animals need our help. Helping to support homeless pets is an act of kindness that pierces to the core of human existence. These blameless animals sorely need our help. American's have always stepped up to help those in need. These guiltless animals give us so much joy, let's work hard together to eliminate their sorrow.