|Pets and People|
Americans share a special bond with their pets. That's why more than half of U.S. homes open their doors to a pet dog or cat. Over the past few decades, pets have moved closer to us, literally. In the past dogs and cats might have spent the night outdoors. Later they found themselves in the home for the night. Then in recent years, many were welcomed in their owner's bedroom, and might have even made their way onto the bed. These days pets indeed are members of the family.
Benefits of Pet Ownership
In addition to providing companionship, numerous studies have documented profound mental and physical health benefits from the bond between people and companion animals. There is mounting evidence that people need pets. A leading proponent of this theory was Dr. Boris Levinson, who worked for years as a clinical psychotherapist and professor of psychology, and who authored the groundbreaking book Pet-Oriented Child Psychotherapy in 1969:
In this very busy twentieth century, man is a lonely creature. There are too many alienated individuals who lack human companionship. They lack purpose and productivity. A simple addition to these lonely lives can sometimes accomplish major changes. The possession of a pet, who eagerly awaits one and responds to one's care and attention, may mean the difference between maintaining contact with reality or almost total withdrawal into fantasy. Literally, a pet can occasionally represent the difference between life and death.
Other apparent reasons why people need pets are the increasingly urban nature of our society, the separation of children and adults from farm animals and from nature, the decreased frequency of households with multiple generations under one roof, and the larger number of older persons and unmarried adults who live alone.