Animal-assisted therapy (AAT) has a positive effect mostly in clinical psychology and psychiatry
In recent years, a growing number of people around the world have pets (especially in urban areas). It is estimated that more than 60% of households worldwide have at least one furry, feathered or pet with feathers. Most pet owners consider it a family member. It has been scientifically proven that there are multiple benefits from keeping a pet at home (joy, happiness, relaxation, communication, movement, playing, better focus in learning / work, etc.). Pets calm anxiety, reduce the tendency to allergies, help lower blood pressure, strengthen immunity and encourage increased physical activity. The hormone oxytocin is thought to have the greatest effect in the form of a substrate for the development of positive effects in human-animal relationships (which is most evident in psychological and endocrine changes). Scientists say such changes can be used in treatment. This is how animal-assisted therapy (AAT) was created. The positive effects of AAT therapy are mostly reflected in clinical psychology and psychiatry. The claims of animal owners and many empirical studies confirm these claims. Numerous studies that make it easier for people to choose a pet (according to the needs, possibilities and interests of the owner, but also the character and characteristics of the pet) have been conducted.
Choosing a pet:
- Dogs are the most researched group of pets. The special value of dogs for people prone to obesity and cardiovascular diseases is included.
- Cats are next on the list because they have a calming effect on anxious and frightened people / owners. Cats have a stimulating effect on depressed and lonely people.
In ancient times, the positive effect of animals on humans was known. Some of the animals in certain civilizations have acquired special status and privileges (for example, the cat about 5 millennia ago in ancient Egypt). Cats were revered and loved in ancient Greece and India (mentioned in the famous Indian epics Ramayana and Mahabharata). At that time, members of the Hindu religion were expected to take care of at least one cat during one lifetime. Islamic Prophet Muhammad allegedly once cut off his sleeve on his uniform so as not to wake his own cat that slept there.
- There are countless examples that show the impact of an animal on good health and the owner’s recovery from a disease. Good feelings also encourage caressing and caring for animals. It has been scientifically proven that involving pets in physical therapy (for example, the patient just strokes and brushes the cat) helps to increase muscle function and mass and to strengthen the patient’s motor skills. It has a great psychological impact. Children can also make some movements and reduce fear.
15 benefits of keeping live pets instead of a plush toy:
- Loneliness decreases with a sense of belonging to a being. Such an approach became successful when a live animal was introduced into medical therapies worldwide instead of a stuffed animal or similar toy.
- Removing fear is another positive effect. Some people are scared to go for a preventive checkup or treatment. Fear decreased significantly with keeping a live animal in the home (e.g., a dog). The aquarium in the waiting room significantly reduces the fear before the therapy – it has been noticed in psychiatric patients.
- Empathy and social interaction develop. Numerous studies have shown that the presence of an animal with a person stimulates social interaction. For example, a therapy dog helps other people better perceive people in wheelchairs. That is, other people laugh more often and talk to people with disabilities who are accompanied by a guide dog.
- Children with developmental disabilities (autism) thrive better with a live pet. Students in the classroom better follow the lessons in the presence of a dog.
- Families that have a pet visit friends more often, which encourages relaxation and socializing.
- Pets have the effect of increasing trust, breaking down prejudices and reducing aggression. Friendly animals encourage interaction between strangers. Having a pet boosts your mood and reduces depression.
- One study says that older hospital patients who had canaries were significantly less prone to depression than other patients.
- The famous Florence Nightingale (who became famous for caring for the sick) wrote that birds can be a source of pleasure for patients housed in hospital rooms.
- The association of humans and animals has been studied for its effect on hormonal indicators of stress (cortisol) and neurotransmitters (adrenaline and noradrenaline). Cortisol concentrations have been found to be lower when petting one’s own or another’s dog. Also, the level of cortisol decreases in patients with heart disease (which the dog visits during the recovery process).
- The effect of pets is positive on the reflection of optimal blood pressure and heart rate. In one study, they compared the effect of petting a dog and reading books in the student population. Blood pressure was lowered in students who petted the dog. Students who only saw the dog, talked to the dog, or touched the dog also had lower blood pressure and normal heartbeats.
- It is interesting that patients with a heart attack recover faster if they are visited by a person with a dog.
- One study says that in Australia, more than 1,000 dog or cat owners visit doctors and spend significantly fewer sleeping pills than non-pet owners.
- In China, it has been found that a larger proportion of the healthy population are dog owners because they exercise more, sleep better and take fewer days off at the firm.
- The effect of a pet is important for the body’s resistance. It has been found that people who pet a dog or cat have an increased concentration of immunoglobulin A (an indicator of the quality of the functioning of the immune system) compared to people who just sit quietly or caress a plush toy. Children who grow up with a dog or cat from an early age have a lower tendency to develop some allergies.
- There is much other evidence of the benefits of keeping a pet alive in the home. A living pet cannot cure a disease, but it can really help a person in faster and better recovery, some people to overcome many adversities and difficult life periods more easily and successfully, and some people not to get sick.