Why Do We Keep Pets? Is Having a Pet Necessary? Is Keeping Pets Wrong?
A very interesting question, that. I have thought about this question myself in the past and am glad that I've been called upon to reflect upon this question again by you. I will start with the first part of your question, "Why do we keep pets?" Well, the most obvious answer to that question would be that we keep pets for companionship. We feel happy to have a pet that we can love and care for. Essentially, a pet gives a person a sense of fulfillment. We derive joy playing with and talking to a pet. This is especially true for the elderly or those who live a lonely existence. So in that sense, a pet has a positive impact on a person. It is no wonder then that people like keeping pets. Its not a new phenomenon either - humans have kept pets through the ages - dogs being the most notable pet man has had going back centuries.
Coming to the second part of your question, "Is having a pet necessary?" Well, I've answered part of it above. It might not be necessary, but having a pet certainly improves the quality of life of some people more than others. Especially, as stated above, people who are lonely or depressed or the elderly. Pets can also help children with disabilities, learning disabilities and otherwise, as also adults with disabilities. In normal adults and children too, pets have been shown by various studies to have a positive impact, especially by lowering their stress levels and making for a calmer and happier life. In fact, on the Centers for Disease Control website, pets are stated to offer the following health benefits:
1. Decrease blood pressure.
2. Decrease triglyceride and cholesterol levels.
3. Increases exercise and outdoor activity levels.
4. Providers greater socialization opportunities.
In fact, the last point about socialization opportunities is a lesser known health benefit of having a pet, especially a dog. Picture yourself walking your dog and getting asked about your dog's breed or getting attention by your dog's tricks, etc. People who are shy and generally find it difficult starting a conversation may find that having a dog as a pet is a boon in having potential dates come up to you and ask about your dog and thereby getting to know a person they otherwise would never have had the courage to approach and start a conversation with.
The point about exercise is not too hard to figure out either. Dog owners obviously have an added motivation to get outdoors more to walk their dog and in turn benefit from some exercise of their own as well.
Coming to the most interesting and thought-provoking part of your question, "Is it not against the freedom of the animal concerned?" Well, certainly the pet owners would think that they are doing the animal a favor by caring for it and loving it, but I do feel in some cases, they do indeed imprison the animal. Birds as pets are an example. I am sure no bird would want to be caged. Certainly, birds have wings for a reason and their place is not in a cage.
So, yes, in some cases the desire to have a pet overrides any sense of empathy for the freedom of that animal. It would be great if people realize specific instances where they might in fact be harming or impeding the freedom of the animal in some way and decide against keeping such pets.
Apart from birds and wild animals, most other pets such as dogs and cats have become dependent on humans in many ways and so keeping such animals as pets is not actually impinging on the freedom of that animal. Such animals are also not kept in cages or a very restrictive environment and so I do not think the animals' freedoms are being compromised in any sense. On can in fact argue that many of these animals benefit as much as their human owner. Those who take in stray cats and dogs in particular are doing a world of good to the animal concerned.
In conclusion, I'd say there are many good reasons to keep a pet and one can argue that it has beneficial effects, but one should guard against situations where one's own selfish need overtakes any concern for the animal. Now, how one can define that is not an easy question. Like I pointed out above, keeping birds caged is an obvious moral no-no. So, too - one can argue is keeping wild animals caged. It obviously inhibits the animal's natural behavior and freedom and can be extremely dangerous to the owner's health as well. So, keeping pets is not wrong, but in certain scenarios, it might well be - if not legally, then morally!
© 2008 Shil1978