They are painfully cute, constantly happy, easily entertained, unconditionally loving and loveable. No, not your grandmother. I’m talking about your furry friend.
Numerous research studies indicate one receives both physical and emotional benefits from owning a pet, something some romantic relationships may be lacking. Does this mean all students should immediately rush to the pound and trade in their significant other for a St. Bernard or tabby cat? To avoid being stigmatized as a relationship misanthrope, aka cat lady, I would say no. However, there are numerous reasons owning a pet can be a viable alternative to having a significant other.
Supporting this contention are the health benefits owning a pet can offer. According to Elizabeth Scott in her article “How Owning a Dog or Cat Can Reduce Stress,” there have been studies conducted among hypertensive New York stockbrokers that found those who own pets have far lower blood pressures than those who don’t. Furthermore, Scott pointed out that when owners give their pet attention and exercise, they too are receiving vital exercise and improving their physical health.
While research shows interacting with a pet can release tension, Elaine Sihera, in her article “Relationships — The Most Lethal Cause of Stress,” said being in a relationship does the exact opposite. Sihera said many feel stuck in their present relationships and are unhappy and anxious on a regular basis because of it. As profoundly disappointing as these dysfunctional relationships can be to those they oppress, Sihera stated breakups stemming from these relationships can have a worse impact.
“Stress from a breakup is thus the worst kind of stress because it contains personal rejection, momentary insecurity and loss of status / esteem for at least one party,” Sihera stated.
The beauty of owning a pet is their companionship never entails a gut-wrenching breakup. Fido never makes you feel rejected, insecure or low in self-esteem. When he follows you around, it isn’t possessive, irritating or creepy; it’s adorable.
By nature, pets love their masters unconditionally. If masters scold their pets for jumping on the new leather couch at noon, the pet has forgiven and forgotten your cold-heartedness before the first commercial break during “The Maury Show.” They may have also forgotten they’re not supposed to jump on the new leather couch, but we’ll let the obedience issue rest for now.
According to Scott’s article, recent research also shows when human beings are completing a difficult task, they are less stressed when their pets are present than friends or a significant other they suspect is passing judgment. Pets are great listeners too, Scott points out. They enjoy comfortable silences and never let your secrets slip.
Another study conducted by the St. Louis University Medical Center indicated senior citizens in resting homes, in many cases, prefer the company of pets to other human visitors, or at least, pets better help reduce their sense of loneliness. The study stated 37 nursing home residents who claimed to be lonely would like to receive weekly, 30-minute visits from dogs.
Bringing pets in public is also a great social lubricant. One seems more approachable when frolicking at the park playing Frisbee with their chocolate Lab. One does not seem approachable when picnicking at that park with their significant other, whispering sweet nothings in his / her ear or arguing. Sassy girlfriends do not make friends; Sassy the housecat does.
Pets are unconditional friends and a constant source of comfort and entertainment. Significant others fill this role for the minority of college students who enjoy healthy relationships. However, for those who are not members of that privileged minority, the perks of owning a pet that can meet all of one’s needs for companionship and fun without those potential pitfalls of dating are worth considering.
Smooches from a 90-pound German Shepherd can make someone smile all day. That’s more than many can say of the last dog they dated.
—Emma Secker is an English junior.
—This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Daily Aztec.