NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Sunday, January 6, 2013

Pets Can Help Improve Your Mental Health

Psychological research has shown that people with pets, generally speaking, tend to be happier and healthier.  Our pets, whether they are dogs or cats, provide us with emotional support.  They bond with us, and most people see them as family members.

Pets Can Provide Emotional Support for People Who Are Socially Isolated
People who might be experiencing social isolation, often fare better if they have a pet.  Our pets usually love us unconditionally (and how often do you experience that!) and we love them.  They're a source of comfort and can be a source of joy.

Pets Can Improve Your Mental Health

Pets and the Elderly
Assisted living and nursing home facilities have found that the elderly respond to dogs and cats even when they might not respond to other residents or staff.  They enjoy the pet's company, including their physical and emotional warmth, and the tactile sense when they pet them.

I was very moved to hear a story about a cat in a senior residence who instinctively knew when a resident wasn't feeling well.  He would lie on the bed with the resident, providing comfort.  This cat was also attuned to when a elderly resident was about to pass away, and he would stay with the resident until he or she died.  The staff said it often helped the resident to have a peaceful passing.

Pets Can Help Us to Relax and Shift into a Good Mood
Even when you're not around your pet, just thinking about your cat or dog can help you to relax and shift your mood.

I love both cats and dogs, but I'm especially partial to cats.  I had my cat, Hecate, from the time she was about seven weeks old until she died at the age of 19.  Contrary to what people often say about cats, she was very sweet, loving, and cuddly.  When I first got her, she would drape herself across the top of my head at night like a fur hat.  She was also very smart (I know, I know--everyone thinks his or her pet is the cutest and smartest!)

In the morning, Hecate would pat my mouth with her paw to let me know she wanted her breakfast.  She was also very playful.  Once I was looking for her all over the apartment.  

Usually, she would come when I called her name, but this time she wasn't responding, so I was starting to get worried.  Then, as I was standing by the refrigerator wondering where she might be, I felt a tap-tap-tap on my head.  I looked up.  She was standing on top of the refrigerator, giving me a mischievous look. Then, she jumped back to hide again, and slowly creeped to the edge and peered over the side to see if I would play with her which, of course, I did.

Hecate passed away more than 10 years ago now, but all I have to do to shift my mood is to think of her and she still brings a smile to my face and a warm feeling.

Although pets can improve your mental health, they are also a responsibility and not everyone can afford or provide care for a pet.  

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist. I work with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my web site:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.

Also, see my article:  Coping with Pet Loss