Stress experiment with pets
A recent scientific study says that people who own pets are less stressed. Maybe not more trustworthy, but less stress would indicate greater wellness. An idea worth considering.
The study examined the cardiovascular reactivity when exposed to psychological stress of 240 married couples, half of whom owned a pet. The researchers exposed the people to stressful situations (mental arithmetic problems and stuff like that) in a variety of social support conditions: alone, with pet or friend (friend present for non-pet owners), with spouse, with spouse and pet/friend. They found that the people with the pets had much lower rise in heart rate under such conditions; better than with their spouse or friends.
This evidence the healing help pets provide has been anecdotal for years. Hospitals, retirement homes and other caring facilities have used pets to help promote wellness with a lot of success. So it is no surprise, especially where children are involved.
Over the last couple of weeks, I have conducted my own experiment by observing how the people in my family and visitors to my home relate to my cat and, of course how my cat relates to them.
My cat is a rather funny looking, very playful and affectionate youngish cat named Tom. He is a hairless breed, called Sphinx.
Tom has many jobs. One is to help me to write by sitting on my lap and purring loudly. He also reminds me to take breaks by standing up and walking on the computer keyboard! I digress.
One observation that is true for all unknowing participants in my experiment: everyone that enters my house, friends, family members and even the courier guy, upon seeing Tom, their face changes and becomes somehow softer. It is as if just seeing the cat makes them less stressed. Even the little girl who is very frightened of cats loves to watch the cat from a distance.
My partner, a high energy executive of a multi-national company, is out of particular interest to this study. When he arrives home after work or travel, his body language is Mr. corporate leader. After greeting and kissing his people family members, he looks a bit more relaxed. But it is after he picks up Tom and strokes him (usually followed by giving him some cat food), that he appears to really relax and turn off from work.
Last week, I had a friend over who says she doesnt like cats. Later I found them on the couch, and my friend said this cat really feels nice to touch. Her face and Toms could be best described as content. Of course the cat had a very special extremely loud purr just for her.
So, the conclusions drawn from my very subjective experiment is that our pets really enrich our lives. It would be safe to speculate that, yes pets reduce stress levels in their owners. If you have a pet yourself, you probably agree!