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Pets: Our friend, assistant & life saver

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New studies prove: People who live with a pet cope better with psychological and physical problems. Contact with animals also helps chronic patients. An overview of the extraordinary therapeutic qualities of our pets.

Every pet owner knows about the soothing effect of a stroke over the cat’s or dog’s fur, a dreamy look into the aquarium or an approving bird chatter. Pets have sensitive antennae to anticipate the mood of their human co-inhabitants and react accordingly. Often, they help us in dealing with emotionally or physically challenging situations.

Several recent studies provide evidence of this feeling of attachment between pet and owner: A recent study from the journal Animal Cognition, analyses the close bond cats have with their owners - a pet that is generally said to have more of an urge for independence and individuality. According to the study, humans often act as mother substitutes in an intact relationship, which strengthens the emotional bond. The animals therefore develop a distinct understanding of human needs, fears and pain. 

Animal therapy successes

How this network of relationships can be used as a form of therapy is shown in a study by the U.S. University of Vanderbilt, which for the first time was able to demonstrate the positive effect of animal visits on children with chronic cancer. The pet visits have an anxiety- and pain-reducing effect, evoke joy, distraction and relaxation, and can thus help accelerate the healing process. The more frequent the visits and the stronger the bond between human and animal, the greater the effect observed. Similar results were obtained in a study by the University of Michigan, which found that dogs and cats play an important role in relieving chronic pain in elderly patients.

Also psychotherapeutic treatments are increasingly relying on animal help. The latest evidence of the immense power of animal-centred psychological support comes from a Florida State University paper published in the scientific journal The Gerontologist. The eight-year, long-term study found that pets can be effective companions in grief counselling after the loss of a loved one and can significantly reduce feelings of depression or loneliness.

A connection for life

To sum it up: The emotional bond between pet and owner is a very special one. Accordingly, people also take special care of the animals that await them at home, for example with special treats, fancy toys or diets tailored to the specific needs of sick, old or young animals. You can experience the trends and developments in all these areas at first hand at Interzoo 2024 - at the countless trade fair stands as well as in the attractive supporting program.

For more information on the studies cited, please visit the websites of the publications, educational institutions and media:

Journal of Applied Gerontology

New York Times

The Gerontologist

Vanderbilt School of Nursing


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