If you have a pet, you know that they can brighten what may have been an otherwise gloomy day. Their happy meows when you get home or their full-body wiggles of joy when you announce you’re going on a walk – nothing can make you feel better than your four-legged family member.
The really cool thing is that this isn’t just a sentiment held among pet parents – there’s actually a word for it: Zooeyia. Zooeyia is a combination of the greek root words zoion, meaning animal, and Hygeia, the name of the goddess of health, Zoion. Its creators wanted it to be used as the antonym of zoonosis – the word for diseases passed from animals to humans – and to highlight the countless benefits that come from our interaction with animals.
When it comes to zooeyia, our pets tend to impact us in three main categories: Community, lifestyle, and health.
In today’s society, it’s unfortunately not uncommon for individuals to feel lonely and isolated, but pets can help us create a sense of community. One way they’re able to combat this is through the facilitation of social interactions. If you see a cute dog on a walk – or someone sees yours – there’s a good chance that you’re going to stop and interact with it. Whether this is a brief hello or an extended conversation, they help you make a connection with someone in your community. Researchers have even found that dogs are spontaneously referred to in discussions about how people have gotten to know others in their area. This means that those conversations you have with the parent of the adorable pup down the street could blossom into a real friendship!
Rates of obesity and diabetes are on the rise in both children and adults across the globe, but one group that is maintaining an active lifestyle is dog parents. Due to dogs exercise needs, dog owners exercise more than non-dog owners. Walking is an accessible exercise for most people and dogs act as the perfect motivator to get off the couch – because really, have you ever met a dog who isn’t totally thrilled to be going for a walk? This love of exercise is contagious and before long, you’ll look forward to your outdoor time with your pup.
What’s amazing is that a dog’s positive influence on rates of exercise extends beyond just the adult owner – the entire family can benefit. Children who grow up with dogs are significantly more active than their petless counterparts, regardless of the day of the week, season, gender, or ethnic group. This is probably because both children and pets have a seemly endless supply of energy and love to play games, making them ideal playmates.
Studies have found that simply being in the presence of a pet has a significantly positive effect on a pet parent's cardiovascular system and its response to stress. The more time we spend caring for a pet, the more attachment we feel towards it. Then, our pet reciprocates with their non-judgmental nature and unwavering love. When both of these are put together, this relationship acts as a buffer to the responses we have to stress that can cause serious illness. Cats, in particular, have shown to decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease in their pet parents.
Adults aren’t the only ones that see health benefits from pets – children who grow up with pets in the home can benefit as well. Kids who grow up with cats and dogs have lower rates of allergy and asthma, but these furry family members also provide a sort of protective mechanism as well. Studies have shown that children who grow up around pets get fewer respiratory infections during their early years.
Health and happiness go hand-in-hand for good reason – the happier you are, the healthier you are likely to be. Pets enrich our lives in so many ways, so it’s nice to know that we can now summarize these benefits into a single word.