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The pros and cons of getting a pet

A study has found that dog and cat owners are more likely to suffer from sleep disorders. 

After examining data from more than 5,000 people, Dr Lauren Wisnieski, of Lincoln Memorial University, Tennessee, found that those with pets were significantly more likely to report poor sleep quality, said The Telegraph.

“On the one hand, dogs and cats may be beneficial for an owner’s quality of sleep due to the social support that pets provide – pets offer a sense of security and companionship, which may result in improvements in levels of anxiety, stress and depression,” said Wisnieski.

“Yet on the other hand, pets may disrupt their owner’s sleep.”

The news has refocused attention on the various benefits and challenges of keeping a pet.

1

Pro: health benefits

Pets can offer a range of physical and emotional health benefits. Studies have found that contact with pets can reduce stress, anxiety and depression. “Interacting with animals has been shown to decrease levels of cortisol and lower blood pressure,” said the US Department of Health and Human Services. Pets can also help people feel less lonely.

Dogs encourage physical activity through their need for regular walks, which improves physical health. They and other pets “foster positive feelings and habits that may improve cardiovascular health”, wrote Julie Corliss, executive editor of Harvard Heart Letter.

2

Con: ownerships costs

The cost of pet ownership can be significant, including food, grooming, veterinary care, vaccinations and emergency medical expenses. Some breeds of dogs also have specific health issues, which lead to even higher healthcare costs.

All this really adds up. Over their lifetime, the average cost of owning a pet is between £16,000 and £33,000 for a dog or cat, said Money Helper.

3

Pro: provides security

Some pet owners find their companions make them feel safer. Dogs, in particular, can provide a sense of security as several breeds have natural guarding instincts, and even smaller dogs can act as a deterrent by barking at strangers or alerting their owner to unusual noises.

But dogs are not the only pets to provide security for their owners. “If you have a property with lakes, swans are not only a beautiful addition to your surroundings… they make a fabulous watch bird,” said PetHelpful. “Like geese, the loud noise and the aggressive nature of this species will make people think twice before entering your grounds,” the website added. 

4

Con: time commitment

Owning a pet requires a significant time commitment. Daily care, feeding, grooming, exercise and playtime are important, which can be challenging for people with busy schedules. A poll of 2,000 dog and cat owners found that more than a third admitted they were “totally unprepared for the commitment”, said the Mirror.

Pet ownership can also make spontaneous travel more difficult, as you’ll need to find pet care or arrange for your pet to accompany you on your journey, which will not always be possible.

5

Pro: nurturing attitude

Caring for a pet can help people to develop a stronger sense of empathy and compassion. Growing up with a pet can teach children valuable life skills, such as understanding and patience.

“Owning pets is great for teaching children responsibility,” said PDSA, the UK vet charity for pets in need, as “they get the reward of seeing their pets happy and healthy and learn to consider others ahead of themselves”.

6

Con: ethical concerns

There are several ethical concerns regarding the breeding and selling of pets, wrote Linda Rodriguez McRobbie in The Guardian. 

“From the animals that become dog and cat food and the puppy farms churning out increasingly unhealthy purebred canines”, to the “goldfish sold by the bag and the crickets by the box”, pet ownership is “problematic because it denies animals the right of self-determination”, said Rodriguez McRobbie.

Owning exotic pets can also raise specific ethical concerns, including the impact on local ecosystems and the potential danger to public health, including the risk of zoonotic diseases.

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