The Psychological Benefits of Bonding with a Pet

By: Rochelle Perper, Ph.D. | February 20, 2016

For those of you who have visited our Point Loma office recently, you may have met our new furry friend, Rue. Rue was brought to us by our Billing Operations Manager, Monique. Rue is not just an office pet, but his presence is a wonderful adjunct to the therapy experience for some of our clients.

Research continues to show that the unconditional love and attentiveness given to us humans by our pets is a valuable therapeutic tool. The presence of a pet can reduce tension, improve mood, and strengthen interpersonal relationships.  The following illustrates how bonding with our pets can benefit our lives in many different ways:

Humor and Fun
The presence of pets can increase the fun in the home especially when the pets do the cute things that pets often do. When family members can laugh together and share fun, positive moments, tensions begin to lessen. Pets are also good models of what it looks like to be totally supporting, accepting, and non-judgmental – qualities that we strive for in our relationships with others.

Pets can teach children and adults alike the importance of responsibility, including lessons in compassion and respecting life. Deciding if you can take care of a pet is an important step, and should be carefully considered prior to taking on the responsibility. Although having a pet is a significant investment in time and energy, it is incredibly rewarding to see your pet thrive and grow. You will most likely be astonished at how much you receive back in return for all of your hard work.

Physical Activity
For many of us, it can be a struggle to get out of the house and enjoy physical activity. This is especially true when we are feeling down. With a pet you have someone to take on walks, roll around on the floor with, chase, and just play with…all good, positive activities! Moving and being active has been documented to play an important role in improving mood and feeling more optimistic about the future.

With the busy lives that we lead today, it is common to get “lost” in all of the things we have to do. The result is that routines suffer and our lives feel chaotic and out of sorts. When a pet is part of the family, we engage in routines of feeding, walking, cleaning, brushing, and interacting with them. Such routines can help bring us stability and balance to our lives.

For those of us who have a tendency to isolate, or “hide” from the world when things are tough, pets can help bring us out so we can participate more fully in life. Having a pet assures you that you are never alone and they are a constant reminder that you are wanted and important.

Social Interaction
Pet culture is broad and diverse. Having a pet opens doors for socializing – whether that be with other pet owners at the dog park, volunteering to help less fortunate animals or talking with strangers on the street who suddenly want to say ‘hi’.

Studies continue to show that touch is an important part of healing, from depression to high blood pressure, and lot in-between. Petting, stroking, scratching and combing your pet can help you feel more connected and cared for.

Considering Welcoming a Pet into your Life?

Before you go out and get that new pet, ask yourself these important questions:

  1. Are you comfortable with animals? If you are uncertain, you may want to think twice about getting a pet now. Consider spending more time with animals before you make your decision. Remember, like humans, animals want a stable home to call their own.
  2. Will having a pet make you worry? If you are the type of person who worries about the responsibility of taking care of someone or something, then having a pet might not be the right choice for you at this time.
  3. Is your health a barrier? If you are struggling with a major health issue, or emotional concern like depression, you may not be able to care for an animal in the way that you desire. Before taking on the additional responsibility, make sure that your personal needs are met first.
  4. Can you house your pet? Before bringing a pet home, check to see if your residence or neighborhood has any restrictions on having a pet. If there are, there is still hope! You may be eligible to have your pet in your home for emotional support. The therapists at Therapy Changes are available to meet with you and provide the necessary documentation that you need for your pet to be considered an “emotional support companion.”

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