Dogs, cats and other pets are more than loving, cute companions. Studies have shown that their presence can benefit a person’s physical and mental well-being. Simply being around a pet can help people lower their blood pressure and reduce stress.
Inspiring a Positive Mood
Animals can also help combat loneliness, lessen anxiety and confusion, provide visual and tactile stimulation, and offer overall comfort. People can focus on their pets rather than on their pain. Plus, dogs need to be walked and kittens like to play, so they’re good excuses for getting up and moving around.
One of the reasons for these therapeutic effects is that most pets fulfill the basic human need to touch. Stroking, holding, cuddling or otherwise touching a loving animal can rapidly calm and soothe us when we’re stressed, note the experts at Therapy Dogs International and HelpGuide.org.
Caring for a Pet Enhances Mobility, Optimism, and Opportunities to Socialize
Caregivers and those for whom they care can sometimes feel isolated, lonely and depressed. Caring for an animal, however, can make a person feel needed and wanted, as well as taking the focus away from problems.
Pets are also great listeners. Most owners talk to their pets, sometimes using them to work through troubles and voice concerns.
Pets can also be excellent companions for older people. They help give their owners pleasure, boost morale, inspire optimism, and provide a sense of self-worth. Dog walking can be a great way to start conversations and meet people. Pets also encourage playfulness and laughter – and who couldn’t use more of that?
Research published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health states that several studies suggest that pets can reduce aggression and agitation in Alzheimer’s patients, and can stimulate them to eat more of their meals. Cats or caged animals may be more suitable than dogs for these patients because they require less care.
Just What the Doctor Ordered
When owning a pet isn’t possible, many organizations have volunteers who bring specially trained animals to visit people living in health care facilities. They can be dogs, cats, even rabbits and birds, and residents are invited to pet and stroke the animals.
Therapy dogs have calming temperaments and are trained to provide comfort and companionship when they visit. There are even programs where children practice their reading skills by sitting next to dogs and reading to them. This helps children build self-esteem and offers them the opportunity to become comfortable around dogs.
Share Your Thoughts and Insights With Us
If you have a story about the therapeutic “magic” of animals, we’d love you to share it with us and all our readers. And whether you own a pet, or have animals that visit you, let us know how it has helped improve your life.