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How Animals Help People -- The Healing Power of Pets

Animals Helping People in Many Different Ways

We sometimes forget how much animals help people and even when we greatly love the pets and animals we care for, it's all too easy to take them for granted. We can forget that they, too, care for us.

The truth is, animals help humans in so many ways. For example, you've probably heard about the idea of pets for therapy. Whether dogs, cats, horses, or other animals, pets can be beneficial to our health both via animal-assisted therapy schemes and also though simply sharing your life with a companion animal.

Discover here some of the many amazing ways in which animals help people. Also be sure to read through the many comments on this page, where readers like you have shared their stories of the comfort and happiness their wonderful pets have brought into their lives.

Cats and Dogs bring Comfort

Animal Assisted Therapy with Cats and Dogs

What role do dogs and cats play in helping humans?

We all know that dogs can become an invaluable companion for the blind and partially-sighted, and the 'hearing dog' for the hearing-impaired and deaf is also familiar. However, this is just the beginning of a long list of roles that animals can play in helping humans who are emotionally damaged or physically impaired in some way.

Here are some of the ways in which cats and dogs help humans in need:

Working with abused children and women -- e.g. Tango, a Yellow Lab who is a ray of sunshine in the lives of troubled kids at a Des moines shelter.

Helping to ease the fears of patients in hospitals -- e.g. Maverick the Yellow Lab is a gently reassuring presence at the bedsides of stroke victims.

Being a friend to HIV/AIDS patients and giving them a positive focus -- e.g. Pets Are Wonderful Support (PAWS) helps those with disabling illnesses to obtain the companionship a cat or dog can bring.

Forming a bond with children with autism -- e.g. Clover, an animal shelter cat, became a patient and loving companion for a small autistic boy, and was the one member of the family he could relate to.

Comforting the elderly and working with Alzheimers patients, helping them to access emotions and memories. -- e.g. Flash, a handsome tabby cat, brings comfort to nusing home residents in his weekly visit.

(The most famous nursing home cat is Oscar who is said to have predicted the deaths of many elderly patients.)

Could your Dog be a Therapy Dog? - Here's how!

Other Animals Help Too!

Pigs in nursing homes and ferrets in hospitals!

While our canine and feline friends are much loved and appreciated for all the joy they bring to those in need, they are not the only animals to play a role in emotional or physical healing.

A UK nursing home has brought smiles to residents with a pet farm that includes rabbits and guinea pigs, a goat and chickens. But the best-loved animals of all seem to be the pigs -- residents find them a lot of fun and enjoy feeding them. What's more, the old folk have noted that their grandchildren are now a lot keener to visit too!

Horses are also recognised for their power to heal. These sensitive and intelligent creatures have helped many people with special needs to develop emotional and physical skills.

Ferrets might not come to mind when you think of a therapy animal, but sick kids in hospitals have found them a source of fun and even helped them to express their fears.

What do you think of the word 'pet'? - Love it or loathe it?

Happiness Comes in Small Packages

Health Benefits from Pets in our Homes

Animal companions help in all areas of life

Animal-assisted therapy is not the only way to experience the comfort of an animal's quiet and soothing presence. Any of us who gives a home to an animal can also experience the health benefits of pet ownership.

A cat's purr is a uniquely soothing sound, and the wagging tail of a dog can lift your spirits in times of trouble. It has been scientifically proven, too, that pets are a factor in lowering blood pressure.

Rabbits, ferrets, hamsters and birds all offer companionship. And many of us find it wonderfully relaxing to watch fish swim in an aquarium.

A Connection with Horses Helps an Autistic Child - The story of a journey of healing

The parents of this autistic boy discovered the incredible effect that horses had on him, leading them to take him on a healing journey to Mongolia. The father, Rupert Isaacson, has written a book about their experiences and has opened his own horse therapy center for autistic children.

Discover more about The Horse Boy: A Memoir of Healing on Amazon.com.

So how about a Therapy Duck?

Have we gone quackers?

That's right... we've seen plenty of dutiful dogs and caring cats, some cuddly bunnies and fun-loving ferrets, even a therapy owl. But a therapy duck? Meet Peepers the mallard in this 2 minute video and find out how even ducks (in diapers) are helping people.

Hug Your Favorite Animal

This is the best part of the page -- it's where you tell me what animals mean to you. People have left some of the most amazing comments here and if you have time I recommend you have a read of some of them.

I love to hear your stories or simply your reactions to the idea of pets as therapy. Thanks so much for taking the time to comment and share.

© 2010 Indigo Janson

What Do You Think of Pets for Therapy? - Do your animal friends help you to feel better?

myra-bardsleywoods on May 07, 2014:

I have a dog and they are great therapy ! Nice story!!

CritterZoneUSA on March 14, 2014:

Great info about pets for therapy. It is really amazing how intuitive animals can be. We have several stories on our blog about pets that have helped save their owners' lives thanks to that perceptiveness. If you are interested, you can find them here: www.critterzoneusa.com/pages/blog

Radgrl on March 09, 2014:

I love animals. I have 3 dogs, 2 cats and a parrot. I lost a sweet baby not that long ago. My 7 year old Pekingnese.

I love small dogs especially. They show they love you every day.

Nice article

chrisilouwho on December 17, 2013:

Thanks for this, I don't know what I would do without the comfort of my dog sometimes. It's great to hear other stories as well, thanks for sharing.

ShelbyLinMarie on December 01, 2013:

I volunteered for the Humane Society of Genesee County for seven years and one of the activities that I lead was to take older dogs or puppies and kittens to a local retirement home. The residents lined up outside of the door every month for the chance to interact with those sweet furry friends. I have never in my life been without fur kids and I never want to be. This is a great lens. Thank you.

adoptionfirst on October 23, 2013:

Animals are amazing creatures and people tend to take advantage of family "pets" and many do not realize how these pets truly help their human parents. This was a great article. And good job to you for donations all going towards an animal shelter! Thanks!

socialcx1 on August 06, 2013:

Always had pets. This is an inspiring lens.Thanks

Indigo Janson (author) from UK on May 31, 2013:

@webscribbler: So true. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your story!

webscribbler on May 31, 2013:

There's almost always been furry, feathered or finned creatures sharing our home. The few times in between were horrifically quiet. Ironically, I've found that they often can tell the difference between when you are just feeling sorry for yourself and when life's trials become truly troublesome. Our adopted children have given us far more than we were ever able to give them in return.

RinchenChodron on May 19, 2013:

I think all elder care centers need pets for their people. Great lens.

suepogson on May 15, 2013:

'The Bar Bill!" hahahahaha - that was therapy in itself. My animals make me feel better every day. This lens is wonderful and will help people understand more about animal/human bond. Brilliant. Well done!

sue826 lm on May 08, 2013:

It's a great idea - they used them in Boston recently, Sandy Hook - it works. People love on the dogs and forget their worries for a short while. A little peace.

Indigo Janson (author) from UK on April 20, 2013:

@Margot_C: What a great retirement plan. I hope you get to do it.

Margot_C on April 20, 2013:

Anyone whose soul hasn't been touched by an animal is missing out! My retirement dream is to train therapy dogs who can help people in need. Thanks for a great article. And I love the picture of the pigs!

SeriousWanderlust on April 17, 2013:

Truly beautiful!! I love my dog!!

anonymous on March 28, 2013:

Really good lens, keep up the good work with sharing!

pbrandon65 on March 24, 2013:

My border collie Blue always knows when someone is upset, and comes and rests his face on your lap and stays there.

CristianStan on March 18, 2013:

I always knew there was a special connection between pets and human behavior, but I didn't know it was this strong

anonymous on March 13, 2013:

What a fantastic lens! We have 10 cats and 5 dogs and they bring us a lot of happiness...most of the time! They are all nearly rescued animals which needed a home. However, I wouldn't recommend having so many animals in the home as it is quite difficult at times.

I would say though, that having a cat and a dog is great therapy! Taking the dog out for a walk is also good for ones own health and cats are very good at comforting you when they curl up on your lap and purr.

Mary Stephenson from California on March 06, 2013:

Can't imagine life without cats in it. Will have at least one cat in my life forever.

hntrssthmpsn on February 28, 2013:

The little running piggies are too cute... who could NOT smile at those faces!!! I'm a dog gal, myself, while my son is best pals with his kitty. They keep us smiling... and mostly sane ;)

Sunwarrior on February 15, 2013:

Amazing lens. You opened my eyes on this subject. To think that horses could have such a profound effect on a human with a mental disorder is incredible.

jimporsche86 on February 05, 2013:

You are right,pets do help people.

Indigo Janson (author) from UK on January 29, 2013:

@miller83: So sorry you lost your dog last year, it sounds like she was a wonderful friend to you.

JeffGilbert on January 28, 2013:

what a great lens... really great information... thanks for sharing... :)

miller83 on January 28, 2013:

Talking from experience I definitely agree pets are therapeutic. Although I had to put my beloved dog to sleep last year she helped me through serious bad times. If it wasn't for her I may not still be here!!! Pets have a power over you.

wahmshelley on January 26, 2013:

I think that pets are great for therapy...I find that elderly people with pets find companionship and a reason to smile...

WAHM Shelley... :)

Shari O'Leary from Minnesota on January 26, 2013:

Every pet I've had since I got married 11 years ago has been a rescue pet. They are the best kinds of pets I think, because they seem to know they've been rescued.

makorip lm on January 25, 2013:

Rescued our old girl from the shelter, sad she'd been brought back 3 times. After almost 2 years she's now just really trusting. Good Lens!

Indigo Janson (author) from UK on January 24, 2013:

@SteveKaye: Very true, Steve.

SteveKaye on January 23, 2013:

Animals are what we could become if we let of our fears.

suepogson on January 19, 2013:

This was really moving. My animals keep me human and I really can't imagine any sort of life without them

Indigo Janson (author) from UK on January 06, 2013:

@paulgrossman: And thanks for your great comment! Your dog sounds like a wonderful friend.

paulgrossman on January 06, 2013:

Animals really are amazing! I went through some tough personal challenges and yet my dog was always by my side! In fact, he helped me move more and get out of the house more so I am eternally grateful for him. He is a BIG part of my family! Thank you for the wonderful lens!

giovi64 lm on December 19, 2012:

I deeply love the horses.

Hippotherapy is a valuable tool care.

Beautiful and interesting lens. Compliments.

xtianfriborg13 on December 16, 2012:

Cute!! I love animals!!

beetrue lm on November 25, 2012:

cats and dogs do bring comfort.. thanks for this wonderful lens.

nifwlseirff on November 23, 2012:

I managed my multiple chronic illnesses much better when there were cats at home to comfort me. Unfortunately, I couldn't take them with me when I moved overseas. Hopefully next year, I'll get a couple of kittens to help with pain management.

Indigo Janson (author) from UK on November 22, 2012:

@anticruelty: I couldn't agree more about kind treatment of animals and will take a look at your page.

anticruelty on November 22, 2012:

Animals can be great for therapy, so long as they're treated kindly and with warmth and respect. It'd be great if any animal lovers could look at my lens about cruelty to foxes and our changing attitudes, I think you could find it interesting: http://www.squidoo.com/workshop/why-is-fox-hunting...

textbookmommy on November 18, 2012:

Pets are very healing and loving additions to any family! Wonderful lens!

Indigo Janson (author) from UK on November 08, 2012:

@Freestuffer LM: Yes, much loved animals can be as important as any 2-legged family member, can't they?

Freestuffer LM on November 07, 2012:

They should not be called as pets. Aja my dog, we used to treat her as a member of our family. :)

JimHofman on November 01, 2012:

Great lens with good info. Pets can help us in so many ways. They are wonderful companions, personal trainers, comedians, stress relievers, and ever-loving souls. They light up our lives and teach us a lot.

makemoneyonline5 on October 29, 2012:

Wonderful lens! Pets are fantastic for children to learn so much from and perfect for senior people for health benefits and love (Sadly not all families do or can keep up regular visits to their elderly family members)

justmelucy on October 17, 2012:

Wonderful Lens. I have witnessed the healing that animals bring into people's lives. They all have a unique and powerful medicine to share with us.

Indigo Janson (author) from UK on October 07, 2012:

@Gypzeerose: Thanks so much, bloomingrose!

Rose Jones on October 06, 2012:

Back to visit this terrific lens, tweet and stumble it. Also featured it on my own lens on service dogs.

CatarinaAz on September 27, 2012:

I just love animals!

Aleayah on September 18, 2012:

Pets are awesome more than we can imagine...

Tony Bonura from Tickfaw, Louisiana on September 13, 2012:

I know for a fact that animals, especially pets, whether designated as "therapy pets" or not, have the innate ability to help their humans get over rough spots that life sometimes throws our way. Whether it's depression, anger, loneliness, or what have you, their unquestioning love has a definite healing effect. And they always seem to understand without saying a word out loud.

TonyB

LoriBeninger on August 25, 2012:

When I was going through a divorce, the only reason I remained somewhat sane was that I had two lovely animals, a cat named Phayruz and a dog named Toolie, who "needed" me. Then one day I realized that I needed them even more. And I got through it. Animals are amazing creatures.

BossJacob LM on August 07, 2012:

Animals can warm peoples hearts with love and compassion only they can provide wonderful lens.

anonymous on July 31, 2012:

Being part of the world as we know it with it's rapid acceleration in all things it is by no coincidence that there is a very real and noticeable shift of the human consciousness that is fine tuning itself with affiliations with animals right now. There are more individuals and groups of human civilisation moving just as rapidly toward the shift of empathy and connection with our non-human animals. This trend will continue in leaps and bounds and set precedents for the future generations to follow our path. Through animals we learn more about ourselves and although there are many cases on a large planetary scale of animal cruelty and abhorrent treatment of animals, those against such crimes are connecting world wide to restore balance and love to a planet, otherwise in chaos-through the evolving understanding of what animals can offer to the human race to restore the planet, moreover the recognition that perhaps it is our turn to become attuned to spiritual aspects within ourselves and be at peace with our dignified, voiceless animal friends who have since the beginning of time been sacrificed by mankind and looked upon as a commodity or of value in ways that are not in keeping with promoting love and compassion. ^^JPJ^^

Indigo Janson (author) from UK on July 25, 2012:

@kburns421 lm: People often leave some heart-warming tales about dogs and cats, but it's wonderful to hear a guinea pig story! Sounds like he was a sweetheart.

kburns421 lm on July 25, 2012:

I love it that you had a guinea pig photo! I used to have a guinea pig, and he was so incredible and loving and used to comfort me whenever I was feeling down and needed it.

mrsclaus411 on July 01, 2012:

Animals are a big help to us humans. They give us comfort and healing.

Vladimir from Australia on June 09, 2012:

Yes, cats can help people heal and I believe that dogs can also do this

Bonfire Designs on May 23, 2012:

I love, love, love this lens and animals and my cats!

MC Productions on May 19, 2012:

Thanks for the lovely lens. I love my two babies and they bring me much joy in time of need

WinWriter on May 13, 2012:

Touching lens. Loved it! My first dog was an adorable lab mix. I named her "Dominoe" because she was black and white. Years ago when my father died, I was devastated and felt pretty alone. Dominoe was my constant companion. She got me through a very sad time in my life.

click2cause on May 08, 2012:

This is a fun and nice lens, thanks for sharing it.

AngelDey on May 02, 2012:

My son is dyslexic and he was embarrassed to read to me, but when I had him read to the dog, it was fine. The dog didn't correct him or things like that I guess and my son got better at reading simply by practicing. The dog sitting still and "listening" was a blessing.

glutenallergy on April 27, 2012:

We had a cat that we not-so-jokingly referred to as our healing cat. Neezer always knew when one of us was sick, and he would come and snuggle with us. We lost him a few years back, and he is missed deeply. We will probably never have another healing cat...

Vortrek Grafix on April 24, 2012:

Absolutely. Insurance actuaries can show a positive correlation between pet owners and longevity. there have been several documentaries in the media demonstrating that dogs, and even cats, can assist in diagnosis health conditions such as cancer, and may even be able to predict things like epileptic seizures. A famous case involved a dog did everything it could to prevent its owner from walking down a flight of stairs when the do sensed an epileptic episode approaching. We love animals anyway, so the therapy benefits are a bonus blessing.

'Vikk Simmons from Houston on April 24, 2012:

With six dogs I'd have to agree wholeheartedly. They do good work for me and for my elderly mom every day. I've often thought a couple of mine would be good therapy dogs but life circumstances make that impossible at this time. Love this page.

Krys Cortez from Houston, Texas on April 15, 2012:

My dogs have seen more of my tears than my friends and family combined!

readabooki on April 08, 2012:

I think pets as therapy is a great idea. My daughter volunteered at SIRES a few summers and it was a wonderful experience. I went to watch just because it made feel good to see the horses and kids interacting.

cenvet on March 22, 2012:

Pets are a great therapy!

LouisaDembul on March 19, 2012:

I think pets are very important, for both old and young. To care for somebody brings out the best in us, and to be loved is also important. A win-win situation.

JimDickens on March 12, 2012:

My pets are absolutely and positively good therapy for me. I think studies have shown that just touching a cat or dog can lower blood pressure. I am certain that it is true

mistyblue75605 lm on March 11, 2012:

It truly does work! :0)

biminibahamas on March 11, 2012:

My dog makes me laugh everyday and as we know, laughter is the best medicine!

siobhanryan on March 07, 2012:

Very good lens--interesting and true

JoyfulReviewer on March 01, 2012:

I absolutely believe in pets for therapy ... there are many case studies confirming this. Nicely done lens!

Marilyn Briant on February 29, 2012:

I love your lens! I saw the film of Rupert Isaacson, and his families visit to Mongolia for his son. I do believe that animals have souls which can, and do respond to ours. My friends had a rescued greyhound who I absolutely loved - I am positive he was a wise soul in a dog's body! Yes, I think pet therapy works and is really amazing...

Beverly Lemley from Raleigh, NC on February 24, 2012:

My daughter has two trained certified pet therapy dogs ~ your article is a great one, full of great info and very cheerful! B : )

BabyCheetah on February 22, 2012:

I enjoyed reading this. Animals really do a lot for us and we do take them for granted a lot of the time. Nice to see a lens that shows what they can do for us :)

CruiseReady from East Central Florida on February 22, 2012:

I am absolutely a believer in the beneficial company of animals. Witness: the many, many programs whereby animals go through training courses to become official regular visitors at nursing homes.

Rosaquid on February 21, 2012:

Perfectly natural and desirable!

AlleyCatLane on February 21, 2012:

I agree that pets help calm us and make us laugh - two things necessary for good health. There have been research articles out in recent years that dogs can sniff out cancer in a person also. Amazing! Congrats on your purple star!

wheresthekarma on February 18, 2012:

Featuring this on my "FAvorite Lenses" lens.

Lindrus on February 18, 2012:

I definitely agree that pets are good as therapy. Personally I love cats. Thanks for a nice lens!

anonymous on February 18, 2012:

My cats help me a lot. I get depressed a lot and my oldest knows when I am. He will come and sleep beside me or in my lap. Petting and/or holding him makes me feel better. He also knows when I did not feel well (cold, flu, or pains). He gets antsy and wants my attention a little more than usual. He is a wonderful cat!

tlaeno on February 17, 2012:

My sister is terminally ill. Her pets get her through rough times. Mine are my therapy as well

Frischy from Kentucky, USA on February 12, 2012:

My daughter and I both have disabilities. The animals who live with us bring us a lot of joy and love. My dog makes sure I get my exercise and sometimes brings me into contact with people if we run into neighbors during walks. I think it is important to get the right match. Because of my limited mobility, I needed a dog who did not need to go on long walks & would be content to stay with me in the house & go in the yard to meet her needs if necessary. I got an adult pug & it has been a wonderful fit. She is the perfect companion!

ozylizzy on February 07, 2012:

My dog causes more stress than therapy! But I have seen how fabulous calm dogs are in old age homes.

Pam Irie from Land of Aloha on February 06, 2012:

I absolutely believe in the power of pet therapy. I also wholeheartedly promote the rescue of animals. This is a wonderfully helpful page and the resource links are so beneficial! Thank you for writing this!!! (I'm linking this page to my lens on making dog bandanas for rescue dogs). :)

Bobbala on February 05, 2012:

Great lens. Our dog is loved and gives us so much in return.

DeannaDiaz on February 02, 2012:

Your lens really shows how much animal lovers love their pets! They truly do enrich life!

gods_grace_notes on February 01, 2012:

My pets are some of the best medicine I have ever received.... I totally support pets for therapy!

JessyGene on January 31, 2012:

Great lens! My pet rats are definitely a great source of joy in my life.

Lee Nitus on January 28, 2012:

Great lens... it makes me want to get a dog :)

JackieSonia on January 27, 2012:

Animals are the greatest thing. I think that God in his infinite wisdom knew that we needed something other than just humans. When you have a dog, cat, bird..whatever animal, they bring such joy to your life. I love my little dog. She makes my day, everyday.

anonymous on January 27, 2012:

Returning with angel dust to sprinkle over your helpful pets.....

Jules Corriere from Jonesborough TN on January 27, 2012:

Well deserved Purple Star lens. My friend has a daughter with severe autism, and has difficulty in relationships with other people, but the relationship she has had with her horse has been amazing to witness. Thank you for sharing this lens with us.

SilmarwenLinwelin on January 27, 2012:

I think that pets are a great comfort. Thank you for sharing this lens :)

davidangel on January 26, 2012:

Pets are great for therapy, a dogs wagging tail, a cat purring or a songbird singing are all reflections of love, a primary ingredient for healing. I've heard of therapists recommending a pet for depression treatment, just the act of caring for another being that loves you in return can lift the depressed spirit. Great lens, very well done.

transcriptioncity on January 25, 2012:

Love the lens, my dog means so much to me. :-)

kathysart on January 23, 2012:

I will always believe that animals have souls. Angel blessed lens as this lens is so touching.. dear animals ask for so little and give so much.

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