Pets & Mental Health #AtoZChallenge
My Pets & I.
Pets mean a lot to us. Humans tend to find a companion in their pet. When I brought Kal at home, he was a tiny life. He was smaller than my feet at that time. In a short time, he has since then become a big part of my life. When he first met Coco, when we ran behind each other all the way to the day Coco died and how worried I was about him since then. Kal has come to mean a lot to me and to my parents. He has become someone who looks forward to them coming home and runs like a madman when the bell of arrival rings. Everyone in my family loves him like he is a part of the family except for Max. Max is for some reason bent on eating away the existence of Kal as a dog.
Kal and Max also write for my blog and you can go through their adventures in The Dog Blog section of this site. When pets become so close to us, we must beg the question of whether or not they can actually have some positive effect on our mental health. I introduced Kal as my symbol of hope a year back when I first met him and since then I have come a long way. Is it possible that they might have had something to do with it? Let’s look into the science of it.
Science of Pets.
Before the advent of modern medicine in the late 19th century, pets were often used in a therapeutic setting. This practice was revived later in the 1960’s. Despite the many hypotheses that claim pets have a positive effect on immunity and anxiety, researchers continue to struggle in establishing the validity and efficacy of these hypotheses. There is also the struggle to differentiate between recreational pets and therapy pets. The definition of service pets is something different altogether. In recent times, we have also seen the use of term Emotional Support Animals (ESA).
In a review of literature, it was found that there are about 20 different definitions of pets and their purposes. All these studies then go on to talk about how pets can be useful in tackling both physical and mental illnesses. This has understandably led to a lot of confusion among the experts and the debate still rages on about how recreation can be differentiated from therapy.
Pets & Mental Health.
The claims of pets, especially dogs, reducing anxiety and increasing arousal are very common to find. There is little data which can be considered convincing of this fact though. Pets do play a demonstrable role in therapy. It was observed that often kids and adults like to project their feelings on to their pets and use that as a channel to express their emotions. A child might say, “Buster (dog) was upset because people around him didn’t love him.” This could be something vital for a therapist in trying to create a bridge between the patient and themselves.
It was also observed that mentally ill people who regularly take their dogs out for a walk are more expressive to their psychiatrists. Their answers are quick, long and in high volume compared to a patient who doesn’t have any family pet.They also help people learn social appropriation as they give an honest and immediate feedback to our actions.
Pets mean a lot to us. Even for the best of us, the sight of our dog running towards us when we come home brings a smile on our faces. The chirping of the birds in excitement on our visit breathes a new life and just for that tiny moment, it makes us feel loved and appreciated and that fleeting feeling is what makes all of it truly worth it.