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Crookston Times - Crookston, MN
  • Your Healthy Living: Pet ownership boosts health

  • It is time for me to revisit an article from years past; on the wonderful benefits of pet ownership for seniors. Thanks to an exceptionally cold winter and a very aged barn cat; I get to write from a new perspective; and it is an amazing one.
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  •     It is time for me to revisit an article from years past; on the wonderful benefits of pet ownership for seniors.  Thanks to an exceptionally cold winter and a very aged barn cat; I get to write from a new perspective; and it is an amazing one.   
        Midge is 17, but according to her health care provider, she is 97.  She is enjoying the full benefits of retirement after a successful and full career of some serious” mousing”.      
        I am caregiving Midge since the typical winter efforts to keep her comfortable have become more challenged with the intense and unrelenting cold of this crazy Minnesota winter.  She loves life at my home, and I love having her.   
        Caring for an old cat; is not without some challenges.  Simple tasks like going for groceries require me to tend to Midge before I go.  Plus the constant shed of fur, forces a clean freak like me, to learn some much needed patience coupled with a more relaxed attitude.  But one thing is for sure; Midge brings an angle to life that you can’t quite experience unless you become a pet owner.   
        There are endless examples of research touting the great health value owning a pet brings to the elderly and people of any age.  In one British study, a parakeet was given to each person in a group of senior citizens.  Members of the control group each got a begonia.   After five months there was a noticeable increase in health and morale among the pet owners.      
        It has been documented how petting the soft fur of a dog or cat can profoundly lower blood pressure. Watching fish in a tank relaxes the mind and body as much as any tranquilizer or meditative technique for many people.       
        The literature suggests that people who own pets are generally in better health than those who do not.   These positive effects seem to hold for every kind of pet studied so far, including—but not limited to—dogs, cats, gerbils, parakeets, chickens, fish and rabbits. 
        Another study concluded that having a pet decreased a person's risk of dying by about 3 percent per year. This would put owning a pet in roughly the same category as other health-promoting behaviors such as eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, managing stress, not smoking and having close ties with family and friends.      
        One of the authors noted that someday, we may see doctors prescribe a pet, instead of a pill.     
    Page 2 of 2 -     I feel, after my own experience with Midge, if you are seeking to fill a gap somewhere in your life; maybe finding a pet is just the piece of the puzzle you may be looking for.     
        The one caution I have is for elderly people who are at risk for falls; you must always be very mindful to not trip over your animal; so keep that in consideration as you weigh the pros and cons of having a pet into your home. 
        Even as I write, Midge sits on my lap while her warmth helps combat the chill of a cold winter day.  She happily encourages me on with her gentle purrs and occasional slap at my keyboard.   I heard once, “Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened.”                   
        Thanks in part to Midge, my soul is officially awake.   I wish you healthy living.   
        
      

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