Home Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy Pet Therapy: Pros and Cons

Pet Therapy: Pros and Cons

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It has long been noticed that people who have pets get sick less and are more resistant to stress. Any pet, regardless of species, size and gender, plays a very important role in the well-being of all family members, especially in the development of a child’s personality, his mental and even physical progress. 

We cannot yet explain some phenomena from a scientific point of view, but it is an obvious fact that most cats are able to soothe their owners’ physical and emotional pain, and it is also said that dogs often take the owners’ diseases upon themselves. Those who have ‘dog lovers’ acquaintances also know that they are always sociable and sympathetic people with an optimistic outlook on life (if they really love dogs).

A pet in the house can also help parents teach their children such qualities as responsibility, accuracy, compassion, the ability to calculate one’s own strength and respect for other people’s space. 

If parents tend to forgive children a lot, a dog or a cat might not tolerate a boorish attitude towards themselves.

Animals can also help the baby acquire independence skills, and learn to play on their own. In fact, they play the role of home psychotherapists, to whom children tell all their problems and sorrows without the risk of running into misunderstanding or abuse. It means a lot to a child if their personality is accepted without judgement, and a cat or dog is ideal for this purpose.

Moreover, the presence of living creatures at home makes people and their children kinder, more responsive, and more sociable. At the same time, each species or breed has a set of typical features that determine its preference in a particular case.

The Siamese cats, for example, are not very suitable for children, as they can be aggressive if one violates their living space and expresses inaccurate handling. Oriental shorthair cats are usually very independent and not prone to play. The British and Scottish (fold-eared) breeds have good traits, and sphinxes are very affectionate. Still, an ordinary kitten of “simple” origin, which combines the best qualities of all breeds, can also become an ideal partner for games. 

Naturally, future owners should take into account the individuality of each particular kitten and the conditions in which he spent the first months of his life.

Among the dogs suitable for families are poodles, pygmy dachshunds (red ones are kinder than black and tan, and long-haired ones are more affectionate than short-haired ones), pugs, Yorkshire terriers and, of course, labradors. 

Dogs of large breeds are good with children, they are easier to train. Still, in such cases, almost all the care will fall only on the adults’ shoulders, and besides, they can accidentally harm a preschool child simply because of their size. 

Sheepdogs, Staffordshires, Boxers, Newfoundlands and St Bernards are more likely to play the role of a nanny and bodyguard than a friend. It is better not to acquire a toy terrier, miniature pinscher or chihuahua for a child: these dogs are very gentle, often nervous and are more suitable as a “substitute” for a child for the elderly or single persons.

You should not get a parrot if you have children under 4–5 years old: they can peck painfully and you can’t really play with them. Parrots and other birds usually litter a lot, and you will have to constantly make sure that the child does not put this into his mouth.

Watching the fish calms the nervous system, but again, if you have children, you should assess the risks of tank accidents and water spilled on your beloved carpet.

If you do not have the opportunity to get a cat or a dog, a rat can surely become the best companion for you or your child – they are smart, quickly get used to the owner and are happy to accompany them everywhere, besides, they can be trained, and they live longer than hamsters.

The choice of animals should be approached responsibly:

  • Make a decision of getting a pet after talking to the whole family.
  • Determine in advance who will be responsible for the education and care of the new family member.
  • Thoroughly assess the dimensions of the living space and the surroundings if the pet needs regular walks.
  • Calculate your financial possibilities.
  • determine where the animal will be stationed during your holiday.

An important question is when is the best time to get a pet, especially if we return to the question of children in the household. 

  • Experts do not advise acquiring a new animal until the child is 3 years old.
  • Rodents and birds may die too quickly, right after you’ve just got used to them.
  • Any animal can become a source of infection, which is especially dangerous if you or your child have low immunity.
  • A small child does not control his strength and can cripple the little animal.
  • You will have to constantly make sure that animal food, toilet filler, and other needed items are present in your household.
  • Babies spend most of their first three years of life on the floor, and to maintain good hygiene, you will need to vacuum and mop floors much more frequently.

If you decide to get a pet, keep in mind that they also require a lot of attention and patience in the first year of life, not to mention the fact that dogs also need to be trained. You cannot only get them in order to benefit from pet therapy, and assume there will be almost no trouble in terms of taking care of them.

Pets are living creatures who adore giving love, but who also need to receive love in order to thrive and make you happier every day.

Dennis Relojo-Howell is the managing director of Psychreg.


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