What can our pets do for us?
Pet ownership can be one of the most rewarding experiences a person can have.
Pets come in a variety of shapes and sizes. They include but are not limited to horses, fish, birds, rabbits, reptiles, guinea pigs, llamas and of course dogs and cats.
If you love, feed, train and take of your pet, they will give you more health and joy than ever imagined.
Researchers have found pets can relax and calm a person. They can take our minds off loneliness, grief, fear and pain.
They bring laugher and offer a sense of security and protection.
They encourage exercise and broaden the circle of one’s acquaintances. Some animals are amazing.
They have the power to detect certain diseases such as cancer and epilepsy, uncover drugs, bombs, illicit contraband and find missing persons.
They have been trained to aid the blind, assist the deaf and disabled and help people with PTSD.
WHAT CAN PETS TEACH US?
- Empathy. Studies report children who live in homes in which a pet is considered a member of the family are more empathic than children in homes without pets. Children see animals as their peers.
They can often identify better with animals than humans. As children get older, their ability to empathize with animals will carry over into their experiences with people.
- Nurturing. Nurturing skills are learned. Those who did not learn those skills from their parents can learn by taking care of their pets. Psychologically, when a person nurtures, his/her need to be nurtured is fulfilled.
- Self-Centeredness. Individuals who have mental illness or low self esteem focus on themselves. Rather than thinking and talking about themselves and their problems, they watch and talk to and about their animals and the environment around them. This in time may generalize to other people.
- Acceptance. Animals love unconditionally. They don’t care how a person looks or what they say. An animal’s acceptance is nonjudgemental, forgiving and uncomplicated unlike the psychological games people often play. They accept you the way you are.
- Entertainment. The presence of an animal and watching their antics and reactions provides entertainment and joy.
- Mental Stimulation And Socialization. In situations that are depressing or institutional, the presence of animals serves to brighten the atmosphere, increasing amusement and play.
These positive distractions may help to decrease people’s feelings of isolation and alienation.
The warm fuzzy touch of an animal to hold and hug brings comfort for many people who otherwise have no positive appropriate contact.
HEALTHY REASONS TO OWN A PET
- Positive self esteem, cognitive development, and better psychological well-being is enhanced by owning a pet.
- Pets in nursing homes increase social and verbal interactions.
- Pets are preventive and therapeutic measures against every day stress.
- Pets decrease feelings of loneliness and isolation.
- Pet owners have lower blood pressure, triglyceride and cholesterol levels than non owners.
- People who own dogs go to the doctor less than those who do not own dogs.
- Companionship of pets helps children in families adjust better to serious illness or death of a parent.
- Contacts with pets develop nurturing behavior in children who may grow to be more nurturing adults.
Some people feel spiritual fulfillment or a sense of oneness with life and nature when they are with their pets.
Several well-known authors have described their relationship with animals and nature as part of their sustaining life energy and/or part of their communion and relationship with God.
- Dr. Leta A. Livoti Ph.D., LCSW, LCPC is a psychotherapist in Thompson Falls. She can be reached at 827-0700.