Trend: Furry Family Members
Try-it Rating: 4/5
Americans are getting a new leash on life: From mid-2011 to 2012, an estimated 1.63 million households welcomed an animal companion, bringing the total number of pet-owning families to a record high of 63 percent, according to a survey by the American Pet Products Association.
That bodes well for the nation's health. Various studies have found that caring for an animal? whether a golden retriever or goldfish?can quell anxiety, brighten mood, and promote a healthier heart.
"People form beneficial bonds with their pets," says psychiatry professor Sandra Barker, Ph.D., director of the Center for Human?Animal Interaction at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine in Richmond. "Our research has found that interacting with dogs, for example, can have positive effects on heart rate, stress hormones, and blood pressure."
Before you bring home a furry (or feathered or fishy) friend, be sure to study up on the care the animal requires. "If you don't have the time to train, feed, or play with your pet, or if your budget can't accommodate trips to the vet, owning a pet can add to your stress rather than reduce it," Barker says.
Check out our pointers on adopting an animal.