A pet can make your life brighter
Can a pet be a therapist? Yes, so to speak.
There is a lot of research about pets (a variety of animals, dogs, cats, birds, fish, etc.), that show positive effects on people who have them; it does not matter the type of pet. It’s all about whether you have an interest in that animal or pet.
Dave’s dad, Rich, would be completely lost if something happened to his cat. Imagine living alone day-in and day-out with no one to talk to, interact with or touch. While this sounds simple, it is important to all of us as human beings to have some kind of interaction, whether it is with friends, family members or a pet. Our interactions with people can be very complex and unpredictable. Pets, on the other hand, provide unconditional love and affection and give us purpose and meaning. We are always accepted by our pet’s love and affection. Having pets also stimulates our cognitive functioning. Indeed it may stimulate our natural survival instinct.
Those who are sick and have pets strive to fight through an illness because their pets need them, thereby shifting their thoughts from themselves to their pets. Research has also shown that people who are active and have complex, unpredicted and interesting lives can live longer. Pets provide that stimulation.
It’s interesting that dentists often have fish tanks in their offices. Usually it is because watching fish is relaxing and relieves stress. Many assisted living facilities also have fish tanks for the very same reason. It is like the mesmerizing effect of staring into a fire.
Research shows that people with heart problems and those who have had surgery can live up to a year longer if they have a pet compared to those who do not.
Having a pet, along with reducing stress, provides increased self esteem and reduces loneliness. Touching or stroking a pet has been shown to lower blood pressure as does grooming your pet. Further, there is an increase in movement if you own a pet. How often do you see people walking their dog? It can be more than simply walking your dog; there is pet food to purchase, which also is a way to get out of the house. With the pet superstores these days, there is more to the purchase of food. People bring their pets, socialize and talk about their pets, look for pet toys from which they receive pleasure when they purchase that special toy for their pet.
Psychologically speaking, watching fish swim in a tank or petting your dog or cat seems to make a poor or grouchy mood change to a positive one. There is so much positive information about pets, the effects they have on their owners, lowering blood pressure, providing purpose, meaning and a sense of responsibility that the benefits often outweigh the negatives.
If reading this article leads you to think about getting a pet for yourself or a loved one, we encourage you to research the pet’s needs and attributes. Some people have allergies to animals. They get watery eyes, inflamed sinuses, etc. from pets. Match the animal to the environment and lifestyle of the potential owner. Some dog breeds need a lot of stimulation and exercise. People who don’t have the time or inclination to provide for the needs of certain breeds will be stressed by the dog’s behavior. Those who don’t want to take on a lot of responsibility may be better suited for a cat, bird or fish.
Overall, pets can benefit everyone with whom they come in contact. Smiles prevail, relaxation and joy come from being around pets.
Animal-assisted activities (AAA) and animal-assisted therapy (AAT) are the preferred terms used by Delta Society, an organization devoted to helping people live healthier and happier lives by incorporating therapy, service and companion animals into their lives. The term “animal-assisted” suggests that the animal is the motivating force that enhances treatment provided by a well-trained person.