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Pets - Benefits Of Animal Companionship, Costs Of Animal Companionship

age physiological social homes found people percent

Pet ownership and animal companionship have become increasingly prevalent in the United States. In 1996, there were 111.9 million cats and dogs in the United States, with these animals living in nearly 60 percent of American households. In addition, more than 4.5 million homes had pet birds and 6.3 percent of homes had pet fish. Less common pets, such as rabbits, ferrets, hamsters, gerbils, turtles, snakes, and lizards could be found in 1.5 to 2.3 percent of all homes. While pets are most commonly found in homes of families with small children, dogs and cats can also be found in about one-third of the homes of people age sixty and over. Among seniors, pets are more commonly found in the homes of married couples, though pet attachment has been found to be stronger among people who live alone.

There are advantages and disadvantages to having a companion animal, many of which may be more acutely experienced by older people. Having a pet has been shown to have many beneficial social, emotional, physical, and physiological effects for people, but there are also costs involved in caring for and nurturing animals.

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