Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Health & happiness. Pets or plants?


Pets and plants have a direct connection with a person’s health and happiness or wellbeing. What should you choose, if you are asked to make a choice?

From the Punjab government’s ban on their police officers keeping dogs at home to multiple other issues, Pets have been at the centre of the conversation, if not controversy, for some time now. Perhaps, rightly so. Or…

The pandemic has changed Lifestyles since it stormed in two years back. One of the immediate impacts of the pandemic has been, mainly, in the first two waves of the same, people being holed up inside their dwellings and social distancing overall. Social distancing has meta-morphed into natural social distancing from its primary intent of being merely about physical distancing.

Incertitude. Fear. Claustrophobia. Domestic issues. Financial Challenges. Loneliness. Anxiety, Stress and Depression got intense. As per World Health Organisation (WHO), the prevalence of various mental health issues has increased by 25% worldwide.

One of the critical stress-busters and something seen as therapy for loneliness has been acquiring pets. They spend time with dogs and cats, cuddling them, taking them for a walk and so on. From baking sourdough bread to music to video calls to Pets and conversing with dogs and cats, they have become unusual but favourite past-times. However, sadly the pandemic also saw a steep rise in pets getting abandoned and/or orphaned.

According to the first-ever survey of Pet Homelessness in nine countries by Mars Petcare India, 50 per cent of pet parents abandoned their pets from the start of the pandemic to now. However, abandonment of pets and subsequent loss of lives of millions of pets is perhaps just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the trend to have pets at home. It’s been reported, for instance, that a lot of animals, including pets, also contracted the covid-virus, suffered severely and died.


At the same time, Pets & Humans together in closed spaces like apartments without much fresh air and sunshine is an explosive situation. Animals, including birds, are used to natural habitats, air, greenery and open spaces to run around. Even if not caged or chained, even the confines of a house are like a prison for these animals.

Apropos, having Pets to overcome loneliness or because it is so much fun with these cute & affectionate animals is not as simple as it seems.

Apart from cleanliness & hygiene issues and challenges of claustrophobia, both for human beings and animals, illnesses termed Zoonotic illnesses are diseases humans can get from animals. Many infectious diseases can spread from animals to people, some of which can come from your pet. Apart from illnesses from pets’ hair or flea, the risk of infections with our young ones kissing or cuddling the pets and then putting the same hands in their mouths is real and significant.

A few Zoonotic diseases humans can get from their pets are rabies (though spread only through bites, which might not be typical for well-trained pets, rabies is a disease that affects the nervous system and is generally fatal. Early signs may be fever or headache. This can quickly develop into symptoms of confusion, sleepiness, or agitation); Toxoplasmosis (Toxoplasmosis may cause flu-like symptoms in some people. It is particularly dangerous in pregnancies); Bartonellosis (also known as Cat-scratch disease, it spread through even a scratch.

It leads to mild infection and flu-like symptoms or even more serious issues such as damage to the heart valves); Hookworm and Roundworm (One can pick up hookworms through one’s skin from walking barefoot or playing outside. Hookworm infection can cause painful and itchy skin infections or abdominal symptoms.

Roundworm infections may cause no symptoms but can cause nerve or eye damage); Tapeworm (Most humans might it from ingestion of contaminated meats. Children may pick up tapeworm by accidentally swallowing an inflicted flea); Ringworm (It is very contagious and dogs, cats, horses, other animals, and humans can pass ringworm to humans.

You can also get it from touching surfaces that an infected pet or person has touched. On the skin, ringworm causes a ring-shaped, reddish rash that may be dry and scaly or wet and crusty. It may also be itchy. On the scalp, it can even cause baldness!); Salmonella (Caused by bacteria, salmonella infection could result from not cleaning one’s hands thoroughly after handling their faeces. The signs and symptoms may include stomach pain, diarrhoea and fever).

The list is long. There are certain diseases which one can get even from birds as pets! The perspective is that while Pets have indeed proven to be stress-busters, a great help in mitigating loneliness and so on, the risks associated, both for the pets and the human owners, are many and grave.

The point is not that having pets is a taboo and/or a crime. But it shouldn’t be on a whim either. It should, in fact, be a very considered and a very thoughtful decision. Like a marriage or a new baby, Pets are a long, hard and intense commitment. Isn’t it?!

On the other hand, there’s another option that fulfils each & every need, want & desire that having Pets does… and then some more. The choice is to plant & adopt trees & plants! Mostly we would know, but if we were to look at it mindfully, it is overwhelming as to how beneficial having plants and caring for plants as one would care for one’s pets is.


Gardening Is an engaged Physical Activity/ Gardening requiring you to do multiple activities like pruning, digging, watering etc. So that makes it a good workout regime. Gardening is perfect for building muscles & joints in our hands. It is also suitable for Digestive health and health of the Hip muscles, etc., as we usually tend to squat while tending to plants. Well, one would say so is walking the pets, running with the pets or playing with the pets.

But then, taking care of plants, helps us get the all-important Vitamin D. Assuming, mostly plants are kept out in the open or at least on the balconies, tending to the plants helps us get a lot of sunshine and so Vitamin D. It is worth noting that Vitamin D deficiency, which is critical for bone health apart from multiple other benefits, is now a global health exigency. Staying indoors due to the pandemic for the last two years or so has aggravated the problem. But once again, taking the pet out for a walk would help us get sunshine!

Gardening helps build immunity. Direct contact with the soil may help develop immunity against many diseases like cold, flu, infections, psoriasis, allergies, and asthma. Also, it is common knowledge that there are a variety of plants that are powerfully effective in purifying air within our houses, so critical for people living in cities like Delhi with highly toxic air quality.

Moreover, the soil is enriched with vitamins and minerals. Soil contains a common bacteria called Mycobacterium vaccae, a natural anti-depressant that helps release happy hormones in our body. Plus, rather than burning candles and using essential oils, Plant some beautifully scented plants like lavenders, rosemary, and basil for Aromatherapy, which is so effective in Refreshing the mind & soul, De-stressing and good-Sleep. So, sow plants, care for and spend time with the plants for a stress-free and happy life.

Interestingly, gardening activities stimulate the brain’s functioning power. Regular gardening may reduce the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s, which are illnesses that interfere with our mental ability to perform daily tasks. Gardening is not just a physical activity but mental focus as well and helps in cognitive learning.

Gardening helps you understand the basics of growing anything from scratch, making you more conscious of what you tend to eat. Plus, given whatever little space we have, we can get organic, grown in clean water fresh herbs, if not vegetables, like coriander, mint, curry leaves and so on, which are massive in terms of their medicinal benefits.

The most important & crucial benefit, not just for us but for our generations to follow and for everyone on Mother Earth, is contributing a little bit in somewhat arresting the devastating Climate Change & Global Warming by planting and/or taking care of some trees around us!

Fair to say in summary, that considering all the pros and cons, Plants & Trees as an extension of our family is a fabulously remarkable penchant and a passion for having, versus keeping Cats, Dogs or even Birds!

Also Read: Smartwatch fascination is welcoming a multipronged crisis

(Sanjeev Shukla is a corporate strategy and marketing leader with three decades of experience with Hyundai, Hero MotoCorp, Ford and the advertising world.)

(Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the author’s and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Autofintechs.com. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.)


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