On Pet Therapy
©2009 Kimberly M. Hartfield, B.S., M.S.
Owning a pet can be particularly therapeutic to those who are lonely and depressed, especially the elderly or those who have suffered recent losses. Many different kinds of pets can bring joy and love into the lives of those who need them most. You might think of dogs and cats first, but other pets like bunny rabbits, gerbils or other rodents, doves, and other birds, and even fish are great pets to give someone who needs a soul mate. People want to be needed and loved, so when the care of a pet is their responsibility, they tend to take better care of themselves so that they can take care of the pet they love.
Stroking an animal, such as a dog, bunny, or cat, has been shown to lower the blood pressure of the animals’ elderly owners. Looking at goldfish swim, or hearing a bird tweet can bring a little bit of the outdoors inside for those who are shut in. Even those people who aren’t able to care for a pet themselves can be visited by pets frequently to bring love and joy into their lives. Children who have suffered losses from death or divorce can also benefit therapeutically from owning a pet of their own. Even if they’ve never had one before, a new pet soon after the loss, can do wonders to lift their spirits nearly to their prior state of being.
Dogs and cats are usually the first choice for a therapeutic pet, and usually fit the need perfectly. Dogs can encourage a person to get out and walk a little, but cats are better for those who are necessarily more sedentary. A rescued pound pet can serve two purposes at once, save the pet from certain death, and bring lots of love into someone’s life.
Doves are a good bird for therapeutic purposes, as they are fairly quiet, but make a beautiful cooing sound on occasion. They are very gentle and are a beautiful bird to watch and play with. The cages are fairly easy to clean and other than that, just keeping them fed, and watered is the only care they need. A pair of doves takes a bit more effort, but they are generally easy to care for and will brighten the days of anyone needing a boost in their spirit.
Gerbils are a fun rodent and one of the cleanest of all the pet rodents. This furry little critter will make a wonderful therapeutic pet for someone who is clearly down in the dumps. Their exciting antics will put a smile on even the most melancholy face. Though gerbils have been traditionally a child’s pet, they can also make a great little companion to the elderly, who may not have room for a large pet. Most apartments and assisted living homes won’t deny a small pet in a closed cage.
Goldfish are one of the easiest and least expensive pets a person can own, but one of the most restful sights old eyes can see. Just watching them swim gracefully around a tank for a few minutes a day can help soothe the heartaches of a lifetime and bring a little joy back to those who can’t get around so easily anymore. They are also a good pet for those who can’t have a dog or a cat in an apartment or assisted living home.
Just about any kind of animal can be used therapeutically to brighten someone’s days, given the right match. Think about how active the person is likely to be, and whether or not they are able to increase their activities, should they be given a pet that requires it. Also think about whether or not allergies may be a problem, and if so, you may want to decide on something with less hair. Gerbils, and sometimes bunnies, are particularly good for those children who have allergies to the traditional pets. You also may want to consider upkeep and if the person will need help with keeping the pet clean, fed, and watered. In any case, some kind of pet can be matched with almost anyone who needs a cheerful friend to keep them company.