Science has now proven what we animal lovers knew all along. Many studies validate that the companionship of dogs and cats lowers high blood pressure, reduces stress, and improves our overall mental and physical health.1 

During this time of uncertainty, many people need relief from loneliness and anxiety. At the same time, many pets, whose only crime is being homeless, languish in shelters; others roam our neighborhoods lost or abandoned. These two separate problems can help ease each other. 

News reports from last year featured happy endings for shelter animals, in some cases showing rows of empty kennels as homebound Americans adopted pets during the pandemic. However, during 2021, as Americans return to work and others faced eviction, some of these animals are returning to shelters. 

Need more reasons to adopt? Our pets help us live in the present moment and push out invasive worries. You experience relaxing contentment when a purring cat sits on your lap. Now scientists know why: cats create purr vibrations with a range of 20 to 40 Hz, which is medically therapeutic for many illnesses. Their purring lowers stress, reduces the chance of heart attacks, and reduces the symptoms of labored breathing.2 Their playful antics also provide respite from depression and other psychological ailments.

Animals can also be lifesavers. Combat veterans with PTSD who were unable to work or venture outside, have new lives when specially trained service dogs bring them renewed calm and confidence.3 Other service dogs are trained to alert their humans when they detect changes in the body prior to an epileptic seizure. Heart attack patients who own a cat or dog have longer survival rates. Walking a dog gives many seniors a reason to get out of bed and get outside. 

The holiday season is here, and this is a great time to adopt a new furry family member. If you are single, a four-legged friend will be your loyal companion. If you have children, a dog or cat is the gift that teaches lessons about friendship, love, and responsibility. One word of caution: do not purchase a pet as a Christmas gift for another adult. Instead, take them shelter shopping and pay the adoption fee for the pet they select.

Where can you go to adopt? A few of the local shelters are listed here. These shelters also need more foster homes while some of their regular caretakers travel over the holidays. If you cannot adopt or foster, consider volunteering or donating to an animal welfare organization that relies on these funds. 

Thank you to Desert Health’s Lauren Del Sarto, who with her husband Tommy, adopted Teddy Berra (pictured here) from Loving All Animals. Lauren reports, “After two years of loss, little Teddy has brought back so much joy and laughter. Everything is just better with her in our family.” 

A loving rescue pet, grateful for a second chance home, promises to bring you holiday joy and happiness throughout the year. Teddy was once a homeless stray pup on the streets, and we celebrate her happy ending! 

Janet McAfee is a freelance writer and part-time adoption/media/education director at Loving All Animals. She can be reached at janet@lovingallanimals.org.

References: 1) Medical News Today, University of Harvard study on dogs improving health, August 11, 2018; 2) Journal of Vascular and Interventional Neurology, April 11, 2018, article on cats and purring improving health; 3) United States Veterans Administration, www.research.va.gov. Benefits of service dogs for Veterans with PTSD, January 2, 2020.

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