Cat Clinic of Cary Blog
Animal Healers: The Amazing Efficacy of Pet Therapy
As pet parents, most of us know how cathartic it can be, when overwhelmed by stress, sickness, or exhaustion, to have our best fur friend curl up beside us. The simple act of comfort can reassure a troubled mind or refocus our attention on connection, and the unconditional, nonverbal bond between humans and animals.
Given this, it not surprising that the idea of animal therapy changing the lives of those struggling with age, illness, or the myriad of life’s challenges is palpable both to us and those in the field of human medicine.
Therapy that involves traditional pets (such as cats or dogs), or other animals, such as horses, rabbits, and chinchillas, focuses more on psychosocial assistance, including mood stabilization and improvement, physical healing, and coping with emotional challenges.
Unlike certified service animals, which are specifically trained to provide rehabilitation services recognized by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), therapy animals generally focus on more of the “soft needs” of connection, comfort, and solace.
However, as psychosocial challenges become more recognized and understood as barriers to thriving, therapy animals may also get the same ADA recognition.
Benefits of Pet Therapy
Along with some of the basic emotional supports, animal therapy has been proven to have a wide range of lasting effects on human patients, from physical relief to communication. These include:
- Lowering blood pressure
- Decreasing pain
- Increasing endorphins (or the ‘feel good’ hormones)
- Improving mood
- Encouraging communication
- Encouraging exercise and motivation
But, pet therapy doesn’t only benefit the humans involved. In fact, studies show there are also significant benefits for those animals involved in the therapeutic process, including increased opportunities for exercise and socialization. This illustrates the powerfully symbiotic relationship between human and animal companion in the pet therapy model.
Where Therapy Animals Are Found
Dogs, cats, guinea pigs, rabbits, rats, horses, donkeys, llamas, and even pigs can be found providing assisted therapeutic services in a plethora of places.
Most commonly, animal assisted therapy programs are recognized and used in hospitals across the nation. Here they work with patients who are experiencing depression or pain by providing a positive form of distraction and tactile comfort through petting and interaction. Therapy animals have proven effective with children who do not understand what they are going through, have limited appetite, or are reluctant to cooperate in treatment.
Nursing homes and assisted living facilities have embraced animal therapy as a way to enrich lives and redirect thoughts from end-of-life or life change fears to connection and companionship, and increased physical and mental activity.
Schools and after-school programs have found pet therapy to be useful in promoting learning and communication in children with speech and other difficulties due to autism or cognitive challenges. And, numerous domestic violence shelters and children’s nonprofits have seen incredible results when dogs, cats, and other animals have worked with children who have witness or experienced violence and abuse.
Here at the Cat Clinic of Cary we have been blessed with our own purr-fect companion and pet assisted therapy superstar, Willie the One-Eyed Cat. Willie is a therapy pet who, along with his canine counter part Quasi the French Bulldog, provides therapeutic services in Cary to the senior residents at Glenaire’s Assisted Living Rehabilitation Center, Glenaire’s Adult Day Care Center The Glade, Searstone’s Assisted Living and Skilled Nursing Facilities, and Cary Health and Rehabilitation Center’s Nursing Home.
We also visit Camp Musart, a track out camp for children in Cary monthly. Other schools we visit occasionally are Lionsgate Child Development Center in Clayton, Bright Horizons in Cary, Little Pros Academy in Cary.
If you have any questions about your whether or not your pet would be a suitable therapy companion, we’d love to discuss this option with you.