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Pet Therapy - How Cats Are Good For People

According to Betty White, American actress, animal activist and author of the book Pet Love, the number of hospitals, nursing homes, prisons and mental institutions using pet therapy has increased vastly in the last few years. This is because researchers at prominent universities are finding hard scientific evidence that therapy pets (such as small cats and dogs that are taken around to institutions) definitely do have the power to heal the ailing and elderly.

It is also very well known that a small pet such as a cat can relieve the loneliness that is experienced by elderly individuals who have lost a spouse. A pet can provide unconditional love as well as relaxation and chances for the owner to get more exercise as well as provide the opportunity for more socialization. Cats in particularly are known for relaxing the human mind.

Studies have shown that patients in hospitals and nursing homes who have regular visits from pets are more positive in attitude and take the human mind of off pain, boredom and other sorrows. Pet therapy has been especially valuable as an aid in helping the elderly, the infirm, the addicted and the abused to reach out and connect emotionally with something again. Pet therapy is especially successful with children who feel abandoned lonely or ill.

Therapy CatThese types of cats, called therapy animals, travel to convalescent homes, hospitals, day care centers, juvenile halls and prisons along with their owners for the express purpose of cheering people up. However, not every type of cat makes a good therapy cat. The best ones have a calm gentle personality and are naturally people-friendly. The cat must love petting and attention and not be skittish around surprising noises, wheelchairs and the other animals that are found in institutions.

Researchers in the field of pet-assisted therapy have found that physically being around a cat can help lower high blood pressure and stress levels, motivate the patient to interact with others, alleviate depression, reinforce self-esteem and reestablish motivation.

Types of disorders and conditions that can benefit from pet healing include:

  • Children with attention deficit order who learn to focus on the pet by grooming him or her
  • People with Alzheimer’s disease who seem to be able to create a sense of continuity with an animal
  • Depressed individuals who need a boost in mood and morale
  • Affection, stroking and hugging for physically isolated individuals or individuals who have been abused to the extent that they cannot communicate with others.

Even the simple act of grooming a cat is a huge step for an individual who is mentally depressed or physically handicapped, but many find the inspiration to exceed their limitations when confronted with a therapy pet. Allen Schoen, DVM and author of Love, Miracles and Animal Healing, says that this is because bonding with animals offers the person suffering a chance to step outside him or herself and communicate in loving way. It may seem that the main benefit of pet therapy is that the pet allows patients to focus, even for a short period of time, on something other than themselves thus allowing a form of psychic healing.