Living in England, it’s clear that pets are very important to us – many households now have a family pet, often a dog or cat but sometimes a hamster, guinea pig, rabbit or gerbil. Although we don’t know exactly when this started, we do know that thousands of years ago our ancestors probably kept some wolves around, probably because they were useful for hunting.
Eventually, they became domesticated and now, keeping a pet has become part of many cultures. That may seem strange when you think that it’s quite a costly business – meals and healthcare can mount up. However, now that they are very much part of peoples’ families, most people don’t begrudge this.
What does your pet mean to you? Although dogs can be time-consuming (training, walks twice a day, finding holiday accommodation for them…..) we get a lot back from them. Unconditional love and companionship are a big part of this and we can get this from cats and other pets too, although they don’t always need quite so much attention as dogs.
So what is it that’s so appealing about pets? Well here are some of the reasons:
- A lot of pets are really smart – this is often demonstrated by their ‘sixth sense’ when they know something’s amiss. Some pets, usually dogs, can be trained to sense when their owner is going to have an epileptic fit and warn them of this. Many dogs are trained to assist visually impaired and hearing impaired people and this is invaluable in our society.
- Sometimes they seem to show more empathy than human members of our families! They often sense our sadness and will snuggle up closer to give us warmth and solace.
- They really seem to love us and show great loyalty; this may be because we feed and care for them, but maybe there’s no need to analyse the reasons – they love us and that’s enough!
- Because we’re mostly a social species and often seeking relationships with others, this includes our pets. Keeping a pet, especially a dog, is a good way of meeting other people through walking your dog through the same places, often at the same times, each day. The people you meet will already have something common with you – they too love dogs! It’s a good start to friendship. With cats, there are online sites which help you to connect with pet owners, showing videos and sharing photographs – it’s a big online community out there.
- Animals show some of the same feelings as we do including grieving – they form deep bonds and connections and seem to be sad and ‘lost’ if their owner dies.
- Like a lot of humans, they like and need stability and security – it keeps them happy and it keeps a lot of us happy too.
Losing a pet is a huge thing and, like any other family member, death is hard to come to terms with. You will go through all the feelings of loss in the same way you would with other family members or friends. Don’t deny yourself this – it’s important to recognise that your pet has been a huge part of your life and can’t just be replaced.