Apartments for pet lovers: Health outcomes linked to pet ownership

Lana Bandoim's picture

Although some apartments take a hostile stance when it comes to pet ownership, new studies show that pet ownership results in significant health benefits, so there may be cause to reevaluate pet policies. What exactly are the benefits of the cat in the corner, or a hound barking at passing neighbors? The benefits are numerous and range from lower blood pressure to lower anxiety.

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Pets promote heart health

Improved heart health is one of the most widely reported benefits with which pets have been credited. As the Huffington Post reports, a study by the American Heart Association endorses dog ownership because it can prevent cardiovascular disease. This is in part because dog owners engage in 54 percent more exercise than people who do not own pets.

For apartment dwellers, a dog can seem to be high maintenance, or it can be an ideal choice to get you off of your couch and engaged in a workout. If your apartment allows even small dogs, adding Fido to the family can yield major heart health benefits.

A self-esteem solution

Owning a pet is not just beneficial for physical health. Studies have also revealed that the family pet can boost self-esteem and support general mental health. This runs contrary to many popular beliefs about pet ownership, as Kathleen Blanchard points out, which often portray pet owners as excessively introverted or socially isolated.

In fact, rather than turning exclusively to their pets for companionship, pet owners are statistically more extroverted and socially engaged. If things do go wrong socially, other studies have revealed that pets help to mitigate feelings of social rejection as much as the comfort of a good friend. This may feel obvious to many pet owners because they view pets as their friends and part of their families.

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Anti-allergy influences

Allergies, especially food allergies, are on the rise today for multiple reasons, one of which is the hygiene hypothesis. This hypothesis claims that children raised without significant germ and allergen exposure are more likely to suffer from a variety of food and environmental allergies. As Jeanie Lerche Davis at WebMD notes, pets can be great antidotes to the problem of excessive hygiene.

It is not just run-of-the-mill allergies that pet ownership battles against but a range of allergy related conditions that include asthma and eczema. These conditions can be especially common among apartment dwellers because of environmental factors such as local pollution, so having a pet can help to offset these other issues.

The health/cost trade off

Both apartment owners and dwellers have new data to take into consideration as they think about pet ownership. Apartment owners already know that allowing pets could increase the appeal of their properties, but health is an important issue. Both owners and renters need to examine the costs and benefits of allowing pets in apartment buildings.

For renters, cost is one of the factors that should be taken into account when deciding between properties that do allow pets and those that do not allow pets. As the professionals at Green Residential note, landlords often compensate for pet damage by charging “an additional monthly fee or non-refundable deposit.” If your family is already fairly healthy, is that additional expense going to be counterbalanced by medical savings?

On the other hand, landlords should consider the happiness factor that is an aspect of pet ownership that medical professionals would link to mental health. For landlords, tenant happiness can equal less resident turnover and fewer overall complaints. This is good for business and reputation.

These findings regarding the link between pet ownership and health might serve as central to a call for a reasonable pet policy on the part of landlords. After all, a healthy tenant is a happy tenant, and rules and regulations can help to keep pet-related property damage to a minimum. Renters may want to think twice before renting anywhere with an inflexible, no pet policy.

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