Anyone with a pet knows animals can bring joy to human lives. You smile after a hard day’s work when you come home to your dog, waiting for you with tail wagging. Relaxation comes easy during a cuddle-session with your cat. Heck, even watching fish in a tank can temporarily lower blood pressure.
People in assisted-care facilities, whether they be elderly or ill, can also benefit from these animal-induced joys. In fact, lots of studies show that animal-assisted therapy, or pet-assisted therapy, can greatly improve the lives of those with physical, mental and emotional problems. In fact, patients in hospitals and nursing homes who had regular visits from pets were more receptive to treatment and nourishment than those without pet visits. Animals, whether it be a dog, cat, bunny or lizard, can:
* Increase socialization among the patients, because they come out of their rooms to see and pet the visiting animal.
* Shake things up! Living in an assisted care facility can be dull, and having visits from an animal can create variety in the daily routine, as well as increase the residents’ interest in the world outside the facility. Visiting pets are a source of hope and expectation.
* Stave off depression. Who doesn’t smile when feeling a kitty purr in your lap or seeing a bunny twitch its little nose?
* Provide a source of communication. Animals can help people with speech impairment, whether just learning to speak or trying to speak again after suffering a stroke.
* Give people something to touch. Touch is a basic human need. And those who feel uncomfortable touching other people, like victims of abuse, or those who have lost their loved ones and feel like they have no one to hug or hold, can benefit from petting and holding an animal.
* Be a “safe place” and “security blanket” for abused children.
Volunteering with your pets is a great way for you (and your pet!) to get involved with community and help others. However, it’s important that your pet possess certain qualities, like having a calm, gentle personality, being people-oriented, and being conditioned to sudden noises. And of course, your pet should enjoy being touched and being around people. You can take these Care2 quizzes to see if your cat or your dog would make a good therapy pet.
And if he or she does, great! You can even get your pet certified with programs like The Delta Society’s Pet Partner Program or register with Therapy Dogs International. Your pet could bask in the spotlight and get lots of love, while providing therapy for others. Quite the win-win situation!
photo from Khaleeka on Flickr