About 62 percent of American households have a pet, with dogs accounting for 40 percent of the total. Cats are second, at 34 percent. Dog and cat ownership has continued to grow slightly in recent years, even as the popularity of other types of pets like birds, fish and reptiles has declined. The pet industry as a whole has continued to grow through the Great Recession, albeit at a slower pace. According to the market research firm Packaged Facts, Americans in 2011 spent a record $55 billion on their pets, more than the gross domestic product of many countries.
Another comforting fact is that pets provide health benefits to us. Studies have shown that pets can elevate our mood. AIDS patients with pets have been proven to be less depressed than those who are not pet owners. Furthermore, a major study in Australia calculated the number of doctor visits for pet owners versus non-owners. The calculations indicated that the presence of pets saved the Australian health care system between $790 million and $1.5 billion through fewer doctor visits and improved health conditions.
Benefits of owning pets and animals relate to both physical and mental health: getting more exercise, having companionship, and being active while caring for another being. Walking Foster every morning, afternoon and night increases the amount of calories I burn each day. Exercise is proven to reduce stress, so Foster not only elevates my mood but also provides stress reduction. This may reverse, however, when he wants to play catch while I am enthralled with my HBO shows. Foster, ain’t nobody got time for that.
An added bonus of owning a pet is I can support the local economy by shopping at Columbus-based pet businesses. I love it. Dog bakeries might be the happiest places in world, and you won’t leave one without a post to your Instagram.
Finally, we all know that walking a dog can lead to interactions with beautiful strangers. I would like to think Foster makes me more approachable and is a source of conversation. So far this only seems to be true with twenty-something girls on High Street. That will change, though, as I am in the process of teaching Foster to only go up to people in scrubs and business suits. What? It was his idea!