“Animals are such agreeable friends – they ask no questions; they pass no criticisms.” – George Eliot
People have been found to benefit from pet ownership by seeing decreases in blood pressure, loneliness, and depression. Elders who own pets can sustain a greater sense of purpose and even people with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia respond positively to pets.
I witnessed this personally. My father, even during some of his very challenging days with dementia, could break into a smile when he spent time with my cat, Simba. My mother, who was physically frail, got some great hand and arm exercise when she would brush Simba’s beautiful fur. And, she really loved it when he would stand up in her lap and purr while rubbing his face into hers.
Simba brought great joy, comfort, and love to help me through some of the most challenging and frightening of times associated with my caregiving journey. Simba was no different than other pets, who bring their human companions the benefits of living a bit more peacefully in the here and now.
Caregivers are often filled with anger, sadness, and/or fear with things that have passed or events to come in the days and weeks ahead. When they take time to play or relax with a pet, caregivers have the opportunity to slow down and appreciate periods of calm during the caregiving storms. If the caregiver is feeling angry or blue, a pet will never criticize and will unconditionally accept them and their emotions.
Pets also freely offer their human companions affection. For caregivers, this physical contact can provide exceptional therapeutic value for comfort and relaxation that can ease a cycle of overwhelm.
Over the past decade, senior living facilities are increasingly using the services of visiting therapy pets to boost the spirits of residents and the professional caregiving teams. And, many senior housing complexes and senior living communities are allowing and encouraging pet ownership.
Pets bring the comfort and there are millions of cats and dogs who are in need of loving homes.
Here are some stats from the ASPCA…
- Approximately 7.6 million companion animals enter animal shelters nationwide every year. Of those, approximately 3.9 million are dogs and 3.4 million are cats.
- Each year, approximately 2.7 million animals are euthanized (1.2 million dogs and 1.4 million cats).
- Approximately 2.7 million shelter animals are adopted each year (1.4 million dogs and 1.3 million cats).
- About 649,000 animals who enter shelters as strays are returned to their owners. Of those, 542,000 are dogs and only 100,000 are cats.
- Of the dogs entering shelters, approximately 35% are adopted, 31% are euthanized and 26% of dogs who came in as strays are returned to their owner.
- Of the cats entering shelters, approximately 37% are adopted, 41% are euthanized, and less than 5% of cats who came in as strays are returned to their owners.
- About twice as many animals enter shelters as strays compared to the number that are relinquished by their owners.