Tuesday, April 16, 2024 | Shawwal 6, 1445 H
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EDITOR IN CHIEF- ABDULLAH BIN SALIM AL SHUEILI

Cats and dogs rule. OK!

Pets have observable therapeutic benefits as, especially cats and dogs ease loneliness
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One of my work colleagues, who has just got herself her first ever puppy dog, said to me last week, “It’s weird. I never ever thought of myself as a ‘dog person,’ but now I can’t imagine life without him.” Another, refers to hers as her “emotional support doggo.”


Pets can change your life in so many ways, and Jak, who has ‘Cooper,’ a Golden Labrador puppy, getting under her feet all day and half the night, is just one of the billions of us who get companionship and affection from their pets. Is it love? Is it unconditional? Pets have become adeptly tuned to human behaviour and emotions. And the philosopher Immanuel Kant wrote of the relationship between humans and their animals as being determined by man’s heart being, “determined by how he treats his animals.”


Pets have observable therapeutic benefits as, especially cats and dogs ease loneliness. Pet owners report that their pets have a soothing presence, as simply stroking a cat for instance, draws that almost somnambulant purring sound. Children almost ‘get away with murder’ with pets, as they climb all over and around them, push and pull them, and evolve, or grow up with them in often unique relationships. I guess the payback is that when they are a little older, caring for an animal can help children and young adults grow up more secure and active.


Pets certainly provide valuable companionship for all ages, but are particularly responsive to those with needs, such as children, the sick or infirm, and older adults, while research has shown that pet owners have significantly lower rates of depression, anxiety, lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, stress levels, and demonstrate faster, and better statistical responses to heart attacks and strokes.


Dogs, in fact, are believed to be able to understand much of our vocabulary but are even better at interpreting our measure of need, our tone, our gestures, our body language, and the unique combinations of any or all of those. Any canine owner will tell you their dog can look into your eyes, assess your mood, what you are thinking, and feeling. They encourage exercise and contribute to cardiovascular health by ‘taking their owners for walks.’ They are also incredibly resilient, recognising, and forgiving unconditionally, while their protective instincts are legendary.


Personally, I believe that dogs have major failings. First, they very much live ‘in the moment,’ and as such, tend to forgive bad behaviour by some owners. Second, they are very much slaves to doggie treats, doing anything for a tiny reward. But most sadly, they don’t live long enough, and we will always outlive them. I have experienced just how cruel it can be to see a canine friend pass away, and in that moment, strength is only a word, and you would give anything to have your time over again. A decade is not enough time.


Christopher Hitchen observed the difference between cats and dogs to be thus: Dog owners will have noticed that given food, water, shelter, and affection, they will think you are their God, and be truly devoted to you. However, if you give cats the same food, water, shelter, and affection, they will take it to mean that they are Gods. The shift in the dynamic is resoundingly perceptible, and never more so than in our home, where our three cats Bronny, Antar, and Persy (yes, with an ‘S’) very much rule the roost. Or as my wife puts it, “It’s their home, and they let us sleep and eat here.”


Pets don’t really need much, but I feel that most have read Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs and made it their own domain. I’ll let you check it out for yourselves, and you will see that whatever we humans achieve, cats will do even better. That shelter, some food and water, and affection we spoke of earlier, and when you consider all that we get in return, it’s a pretty good deal for us humans either way, isn’t it?


Just remember what George Elliot said, “Animals are the most agreeable of friends, asking no questions, and never criticising what we do.” Would that some of our friends, family and colleagues kept similar counsel.


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