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 everyone moving in so many different directions, at such high speeds, why do we slow down to smile, laugh and gush about pets? shared five times more than any other picture we posted.
We have all read about the medical reasons to have a pet. In an article this summer, WebMD said pets are natural mood enhancers; after only a few minutes with a dog or cat or watching fish swim, we 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 the 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. The article went on to say that researchers have found when children grow up in a home with a dog or cat, they are less likely to develop allergies -- the same is true for kids who live on a farm with large animals. So perhaps pets are the miracle drug we have been waiting for.
In their latest 2012 survey, the American Pet Products Association, or APPA, reported 62 percent of U.S. households own a pet, which equates to about 72.9 million homes. While the number of cats outnumber dogs by 8 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.
Americans are obsessed with their pets. As the Huffington Post reported, the Walker Art Center, a well-regarded museum of modern art in Minnesota, 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 to be 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 comes 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 American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, or ASPCA, 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 undermanned. 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.
Help by donating to 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 alone. These pets sitting in cages at 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. Americans 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.
Marc Joseph is the author of "The Secrets of Retailing, Or: How to Beat Wal-Mart!" and the CEO/President and founder of DollarDays International Inc.