Furry Friends Can Relieve Our Stress

What do you do at the end of a tough day? Yoga? Meditation? Pour a glass of wine? Take a hot bath?


For me, the best stress relievers are my cats, Comet and Moo. (Actually, make that a glass of wine and my cats.)

And I’m not alone. More people are turning to fur of the four-legged kind to get a handle on a number of physiological and emotional issues.

Animal-assisted therapy

“There’s a lot that animal-assisted therapy can offer,” says Robin Simborg, a board member at the Rainbow Animal Assisted Therapy Center in Morton Grove. “The self-esteem, self-worth and comfort skills learned in pet therapy easily transfer to life outside of pet therapy.”

According to Simborg, it’s important to recognize the distinction between animal-assistance dogs and service dogs. Service dogs, such as seeing-eye dogs, literally provide a service. Animal assistance dogs are used for therapeutic interventions.

Simborg’s organization offers specific assistance with a wide range of issues, including:

  • Working with residential psychiatric patients
  • Hospital bedside visits
  • Special education programs
  • Occupational/physical therapy
  • Autistic patients
  • Teaching children impulse control, motor skill development and social skills
  • Crisis counseling

Proven results
It’s a proven fact that animals reduce stress and can lower your blood pressure. A number of research studies show that pets are beneficial to overall health, including a British study from 2002 that revealed 64 percent of pet owners report reduced stress and a more relaxed manner written up on Petside.com. Holistic Online, a Web directory for mind body medicine and health information, cites a study that shows oral surgery patients watching aquarium fish pre-surgery experienced the same level of calmness as those hypnotized prior to surgery.

What type of pet is the best Rx?
The type or breed of animal isn’t necessarily the questionórather, experts suggest looking to your temperament and lifestyle to select a pet that will bring you the most satisfaction.

If relaxing on the couch sounds like a slice of heaven, perhaps a cat is the best way to go. If you are more active and need a running partner, a dog that is up for a lot of exercise, like a Lab, might be more to your liking. The stress reduction is derived from the companionship you enjoy.