Contrary to what you may have heard, adding a furry or feathered member to your family can be a wonderful thing. Moreover, it comes with the added bonus of boosting self-esteem, lowering stress levels for everyone in the family, but most importantly, they can teach your little a great deal about love
BY SIMONA TERRON
ASK any Indian adult what they think about having furry companions and the reaction is almost always positive. They smile and either reminisce fondly about their past experiences of having pets, or they wistfully sigh and wish their parents had given into their demands for one when they were little. Now as parents with very young kids, when asked if they would consider having pets as companions for their children, strangely the answer is almost always a resounding ‘no’. Based on mostly hearsay and a lot of old wives’ tales about pets being a health hazard for little ones, those once-enthusiastic pet lovers are now wracked with doubt about the issue.
MAN’S BEST FRIEND
Families seem to forget the well-known fact that humans who have animal companions tend to have several great things going for them. Not only do they tend to be less likely to develop heart disease and hypertension, but they also tend to live longer and happier lives. Pets provide unconditional love and companionship, which can be a boon for folks who tend to have social anxiety or suffer feelings of isolation and loneliness. Try watching a person with their pet in public, and notice how random strangers feel comfortable enough to approach them or are more willing to help them if they ask for directions.
Just try staying grumpy when you have a hyper-energetic kitten who wants to play with you frantically with little regard for gravity or whether you have the time and energy. And we challenge you to lead a sedentary life when you have to walk your dog three times a day so he can do his business in the open. Did you know that scientists discovered that people who played with their pets displayed high levels of neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine? These are also known as your happy chemicals. Not only that, these same folks had lower than normal levels of unhealthy things like triglycerides and cholesterol in their systems. Even the act of stroking a pet can serve to slow down your heart rate and make you feel calm, happy and relaxed.
Consulting homoeopathic psychiatrist, counsellor and regression therapist, Dr Dinal Vora, who specialises in child mental health, says it best when she describes how the unconditional love and acceptance that an animal is capable of giving a baby, helps the child feel secure and safe. “Going ahead, the child operates from this secure feeling and hence is able to make lasting and fulfi lling relationships.
The security helps them feel confident about themselves in endeavours where self-doubt tends to creep in,” she elaborates. A family is a close-knit unit and animals, too, are protective of their young. This makes a dog or a cat almost an ideal companion thanks to their unique combination of roles and functions as a parent-like protector and an energetic, fun-filled playmate. Dr Dinal is also quick to mention that pets can be a positive infl uence on kids with regard to non-verbal communication, by helping them learn to express themselves even without using words.