One of my three cats, CJ, has a unique purr. Her purr can be heard across the house, or over the phone by unsuspecting callers, and her sound has been compared to a pigeon or turtle dove. It’s nearly impossible not to smile when she is purring (unless it is 3 a.m., because if she wakes up, she purrs then as well!) My other two kitties like to snuggle–often at inconvenient times, such as when I am trying to type a blog post!–but there is no doubt they love me. They tend to stick especially close when they sense I am unhappy or not feeling well.
One of my colleagues at Duke, Jennifer Strauss, was featured recently about volunteer work she, her husband, and their dog, Murphy, do at a camp for children who have lost a parent, sibling or other significant person in their lives within the past two years. In the article, Jennifer discusses the connections the children make with Murphy, and how his presence seems to allow them to express feelings that may not be so easy to share with adults.
The physical and mental health benefits of having pets are numerous. If you and your partner already have pets, are you getting the most benefit? If you don’t have pets, is it time to consider getting one?
It’s important to note that pets cannot cure mental illness, but they can help alleviate symptoms. However, before you decide to go out and adopt a pet, there are two important things to keep in mind: 1) If your partner is severely debilitated, they will likely not be able to care for or benefit from a pet, and 2) If your partner is not a “pet person,” giving them one is not likely to change their mind. Pets are best for people who are mild to moderately depressed, or are experiencing anxiety.
How can a pet help?
If you need more convincing, or just more information, fellow Psych Central blogger Alicia Sparks wrote an article about how animals benefit mental health, and has additional resources, including book suggestions and links.
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Last reviewed: 4 Feb 2012