Pets Impact Your Health and Wellbeing
As families endure the uncertainty of pandemic conditions outside their homes, the value proposition of pet ownership is getting a boost. Most pet owners can easily attest to the emotional benefits of having that wagging tail or purring rub greet you each morning. Furry family members provide a calming, mood-enhancing effect in the face of adversity.
That said, moving beyond the stress-reducing benefits of spending more quality time around dogs and cats is emerging evidence that pets can contribute directly to owner health and well-being.
In Dr. Marty Becker’s landmark book, The Healing Power of Pets, this renowned Veterinarian brought to light tangible associations between pets and the health and wellbeing of their owners. Becker characterized dogs and cats as a “human life support system,” based on studies showing a link between the presence of pets and the prevention, detection and treatment of illnesses.
A literature search on pet-to-human health impacts, reveals studies and published reports that draw connections between pet ownership and –
- Lower blood pressure
- Improved recovery outcomes from cancer and strokes
- Reduced use of medications
- Lower risk of heart disease
- Reduced doctor visits and associated costs
- Early detection of cancer
- Enhanced self-esteem
- Improved mental health
- Relief from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Treatment of depression and loneliness
- Doctor recommended therapy in treatment of Autism, Alzheimer’s and spinal injury
According to the American Pet Products Association, 68 percent of U.S. households include a pet, with 90 million dogs and 94 million cats residing in homes.
The deep emotional bond between pets and pet parents has always been a source of motivation driving the continued premiumization of the pet care marketplace. Advancing sales of super premium pet foods, for example, is attributed to the growing desire to provide nutritional quality that is on a par with human-quality diets. Pets are now fully ensconced as card-carrying family members.
A connection between human health benefits and pet ownership may become more apparent while the pandemic turns lifestyles upside down, and the pet to pet-owner relationship helps measurably improve wellness and happiness in the midst of unprecedented upheaval.
If pet ownership makes people not only happier but also healthier, it is likely the relationship value will rise with it, and the increase in pet-owning households will grow alongside.
Marketing best practices trail behind the evidence of lifestyle benefits
Pet food is an interesting category due to the similarities in product form – kibble has essentially the same brown nugget appearance brand-to-brand. The continued growth of brands offering higher protein foods made from animal, poultry and fish proteins, has prompted brands to also similarly emphasize analytical messaging around ingredients and protein percentages inside the nugget.
However, the latest research in consumer attitude and behavior shows that people remain emotional creatures who make decisions led by their feelings more than facts. The correlation between pet ownership and improved owner health and wellbeing could fuel the continued growth of high-quality pet foods. This will occur for the very reason that people themselves have already connected the dots between what they ingest and their own quality of life.
However, the pet food industry is still stuck in analytical rather than lifestyle marketing practices.
It’s time that pet brands look more closely at the contributions pet ownership can make to family health and understand the emotional connectivity this fosters. While other business categories will undoubtedly suffer in the presence of COVID-19, it is clear pet owners feel strongly about feeding quality foods and have routinely shown they will make sacrifices in other areas of their life to do so.
It may very well be that dogs and cats will be the heroes that elevate family health and happiness during this trying time.
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Bob Wheatley is the CEO of Chicago-based Emergent, The Healthy Living Agency. Traditional brand marketing often sidesteps more human qualities that can help consumers form an emotional bond. Yet brands yearn for authentic engagement, trust and a lasting relationship with their customers. Emergent helps brands erase ineffective self-promotion and replace it with clarity, honesty and deeper meaning in their customer relationships and communication. For more information, contact [email protected] and follow on Twitter @BobWheatley.