The Benefits We
Experience When Pets (Animals) Are Beside Us
Pet Therapy works by providing proximity to
animals to those who can benefit by it. What are the benefits we accrue when animals are
brought near us? Delta Society suggests the following benefits of having pets beside us or
living with pets.
We Develop More
Studies report that children who live in
homes in which a pet is considered a member of the family are more empathetic than
children in homes without pets.
This could be due to a variety of
Children see animals as peers. They can
identify better with animals than human beings. Animal psychology is very simple. With
animals, what you see is what you get. Humans are not as direct. We need to develop talent
to read and interpret body language. Children can read an animal's body
As children get older, their
ability to empathize with animals will carry over into their experiences with people.
Develop An Outward Focus
Individuals who have mental illness or
low self-esteem focus on themselves. Animals can help them focus on their environment.
Rather than thinking and talking about themselves and their problems, they watch and talk
to and about the animals.
Nurturing skills are learned. Most of
learn this from our parents. Those who do not learn these skills from their parents can
learn by taking care of their pets. By being taught to take care of an animal, the
children can develop these skills. Psychologically, when a person nurtures, his/her need
to be nurtured is being fulfilled.
Animals can open a channel of
emotionally safe, non-threatening communication between client and therapist.
In therapy settings, animals help present
an air of emotional safety. If a therapist has an animal in his/her office, s/he
"can't be all bad." The animal's presence may open a path through the person's
initial resistance. Children are especially likely to project their feelings and
experiences onto an animal.
Animals have a way of accepting without
qualification. They don't care how a person looks or what they say. (Have you ever heard
of your dog deciding to go to your neighbors because he or she feels it is better out
there?) An animal's acceptance is nonjudgmental, forgiving, and uncomplicated by the
psychological games people often play. They accept you the way you are.
The presence of an animal provides a much
needed entertainment to those watching it. Even people who don't like animals often enjoy
watching their antics and reactions. Especially in long-term care facilities, it seems
everyone is entertained by animal visits in some way.
Studies have shown that when dogs and
cats come to visit a care facility, there is more laughter and interaction among residents
than during any other "therapy" or entertainment time. In an inpatient setting,
the presence of animals encourages socialization. Staff members have reported that it is
easier to talk to residents during and after animal visits. Family members often come
during the animal visits and some have reported that it is an especially comfortable and
pleasant time to come.
Mental stimulation occurs because of
increased communication with other people, recalled memories, and the entertainment
provided by the animals. In situations that are depressing or institutional, the presence
of the animals serves to brighten the atmosphere, increasing amusement, laughter, and
play. These positive distractions may help to decrease people's feelings of isolation or
It is well established that touch is very
important for the nourishment of our mind and spirit. Infants who are not touched do not
develop healthy relationships with other people and often fail to thrive and grow
physically. For some people, touch from another person is not acceptable, but the warm,
furry touch of a dog or cat is. In hospitals, where most touch is painful or invasive, the
touch of an animal is safe, non-threatening, and pleasant. There are a number of programs
for people who have been physically or sexually abused in which staff and volunteers are
not allowed to touch the clients. In cases like these, having an animal to hold, hug, and
touch can make a world of difference to people who would otherwise have no positive,
appropriate physical contact.
Many people are able to relax when
animals are present. Tests have shown that the decrease in heart rate and blood pressure
can be dramatic. Even watching fish swim in an aquarium can be very calming.
Some people feel spiritual
fulfillment or a sense of oneness with life and nature when they are with their pets. This
is hard to define or explain. Some well-known authors have described their relationships
with animals and nature as part of their sustaining life energy and/or part of their
communion and relationship with God.
Related Topic: The
Power of Pets by Sally Abrahms
Next Topic: Reflexology