At Animal Samaritans, we believe in the power of human-animal connections. We know that pets can bring incredible joy to our lives by providing companionship, love, and care. They offer spontaneous affection and undying loyalty, which is why almost 98% of pet owners consider their pets a member of their family. They can also provide a temporary escape from the woes of daily life. However, many pet owners are unaware of the mental health benefits that complement the happiness we feel when cuddling with our furry friends.
Recent studies in the field of human-animal bond research have shown that pets, especially dog and cats, can reduce depression, stress, and anxiety, relieve loneliness, and even improve physical health. Researchers refer to this as the pet effect, in which the bond between humans and animals is a mutually beneficial relationship that positively impacts the health and well-being of both. Here are some ways in which a human-animal bond can improve our mental health.
1. Pets help reduce depression.
Studies have shown that pets help people focus on the present, because they have to pay attention to their pet. Pets also improve their sense of purpose and create a feeling of being needed, because they are caring for another living creature.
2. Pets help reduce anxiety and stress.
The companionship of an animal can help ease anxiety and build self-confidence for people who are anxious about going out into the world. Because pets live in the moment, they can help you become more mindful and appreciate the joy of the present. Moreover, interacting with animals, particularly stroking and petting them, has been shown to decrease cortisol, a stress-related hormone.
3. Pets help relieve loneliness.
Pets can help relieve loneliness and isolation by providing companionship, facilitating interactions with others, and helping you engage in activities that involve being social with others, such as going outdoors and getting exercise.
4. Pets provide comfort and support.
Animals can serve as a source of comfort, and therapy dogs are especially good at this. Animal Samaritans’ Animal Companion Therapy (ACT) program focuses on animal companionship as a form of treatment. These animalassisted interventions are endorsed by human healthcare providers as costeffective interventions for specific patient populations in these various facilities. The visits from our therapy dogs offer participants non-judgmental affection, a sense of serenity, a reduction in anxiety and stress, and stimulate social interaction. Our ACT visits also give participants the opportunity for exercise and play and distracts them from the challenges of their current condition. Animal Samaritans is honored to provide this extra layer of support and healing to some of the most vulnerable people in our community through our ACT program.
Even if you don’t have the means to have a pet full-time, there are still ways you can experience the health benefits of being around animals. Fostering an animal is the perfect way to temporarily give a pet a loving home while also improving your mental health. The foster program at Animal Samaritans has been a long-standing institution and many of our devoted volunteers and new foster volunteers have reached out during this critical time to find a social distancing buddy. Fostering gives dogs and cats the time, love and care they need to find their forever homes. This is especially important for newborn kittens and puppies who need around the clock care. Additionally, fostering opens space up for more animals to be rescued. Fostering is not only rewarding but it can help reduce stress and anxiety for the animal and the foster parent. At Animal Samaritans, we’ll give you everything you need to care for your foster pet, including supplies, veterinary care, and support.