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How Animals Help People -- The Healing Power of Pets

Updated on October 7, 2014

Animals Helping People in Many Different Ways

We sometimes forget how much animals help people and even when we greatly love the pets and animals we care for, it's all too easy to take them for granted. We can forget that they, too, care for us.

The truth is, animals help humans in so many ways. For example, you've probably heard about the idea of pets for therapy. Whether dogs, cats, horses, or other animals, pets can be beneficial to our health both via animal-assisted therapy schemes and also though simply sharing your life with a companion animal.

Discover here some of the many amazing ways in which animals help people. Also be sure to read through the many comments on this page, where readers like you have shared their stories of the comfort and happiness their wonderful pets have brought into their lives.

Cats and Dogs bring Comfort


Animal Assisted Therapy with Cats and Dogs

What role do dogs and cats play in helping humans?

We all know that dogs can become an invaluable companion for the blind and partially-sighted, and the 'hearing dog' for the hearing-impaired and deaf is also familiar. However, this is just the beginning of a long list of roles that animals can play in helping humans who are emotionally damaged or physically impaired in some way.

Here are some of the ways in which cats and dogs help humans in need:

Working with abused children and women -- e.g. Tango, a Yellow Lab who is a ray of sunshine in the lives of troubled kids at a Des moines shelter.

Helping to ease the fears of patients in hospitals -- e.g. Maverick the Yellow Lab is a gently reassuring presence at the bedsides of stroke victims.

Being a friend to HIV/AIDS patients and giving them a positive focus -- e.g. Pets Are Wonderful Support (PAWS) helps those with disabling illnesses to obtain the companionship a cat or dog can bring.

Forming a bond with children with autism -- e.g. Clover, an animal shelter cat, became a patient and loving companion for a small autistic boy, and was the one member of the family he could relate to.

Comforting the elderly and working with Alzheimers patients, helping them to access emotions and memories. -- e.g. Flash, a handsome tabby cat, brings comfort to nusing home residents in his weekly visit.

(The most famous nursing home cat is Oscar who is said to have predicted the deaths of many elderly patients.)

Could your Dog be a Therapy Dog? - Here's how!

Therapy Dogs: Training Your Dog to Reach Others
Therapy Dogs: Training Your Dog to Reach Others

Here's a guide to training your dog to be able to bring comfort and healing to others. Based on personal experiences, the book covers the key issues of dog therapy.

This excellent guide to therapy dog work currently has a 5 star average rating on from 16 happy customers.

It covers things such as suitability of dog (and owner!) for therapy work, a step by step guide to training, advice on conducting an effective therapy visit, the benefits of animal therapy, and more.


Other Animals Help Too!

Pigs in nursing homes and ferrets in hospitals!

While our canine and feline friends are much loved and appreciated for all the joy they bring to those in need, they are not the only animals to play a role in emotional or physical healing.

A UK nursing home has brought smiles to residents with a pet farm that includes rabbits and guinea pigs, a goat and chickens. But the best-loved animals of all seem to be the pigs -- residents find them a lot of fun and enjoy feeding them. What's more, the old folk have noted that their grandchildren are now a lot keener to visit too!

Horses are also recognised for their power to heal. These sensitive and intelligent creatures have helped many people with special needs to develop emotional and physical skills.

Ferrets might not come to mind when you think of a therapy animal, but sick kids in hospitals have found them a source of fun and even helped them to express their fears.

Paws & Effect: The Healing Power of Dogs
Paws & Effect: The Healing Power of Dogs

Dogs have always been our friends and changed our lives for the better. But they may save our lives as well. Seamlessly weaving scientific research with compelling narrative, Paws & Effect tells incredibly moving stories of beloved pets who have supported their people through periods of ill health and other crises-with miraculous results.


What do you think of the word 'pet'? - Love it or loathe it?

Do you approve of the term 'pet' for the animals in our homes?

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Happiness Comes in Small Packages


Health Benefits from Pets in our Homes

Animal companions help in all areas of life

Animal-assisted therapy is not the only way to experience the comfort of an animal's quiet and soothing presence. Any of us who gives a home to an animal can also experience the health benefits of pet ownership.

A cat's purr is a uniquely soothing sound, and the wagging tail of a dog can lift your spirits in times of trouble. It has been scientifically proven, too, that pets are a factor in lowering blood pressure.

Rabbits, ferrets, hamsters and birds all offer companionship. And many of us find it wonderfully relaxing to watch fish swim in an aquarium.

Kitty Therapy: Getting by with a Little Help from Your Friends
Kitty Therapy: Getting by with a Little Help from Your Friends

Funny as well as touching, Kitty Therapy warmly proclaims the therapeutic power of kittens with more than 50 color photographs and surprising and inspiring words. Each photograph is a accompanied by a quote about love, friendship, and the sweetness of a kitten's kiss. Relax and renew with these furry friends!


A Connection with Horses Helps an Autistic Child - The story of a journey of healing

The parents of this autistic boy discovered the incredible effect that horses had on him, leading them to take him on a healing journey to Mongolia. The father, Rupert Isaacson, has written a book about their experiences and has opened his own horse therapy center for autistic children.

Discover more about The Horse Boy: A Memoir of Healing on

So how about a Therapy Duck?

Have we gone quackers?

That's right... we've seen plenty of dutiful dogs and caring cats, some cuddly bunnies and fun-loving ferrets, even a therapy owl. But a therapy duck? Meet Peepers the mallard in this 2 minute video and find out how even ducks (in diapers) are helping people.

Hug Your Favorite Animal

Moments With Baxter: Comfort and Love from the World's Best Therapy Dog
Moments With Baxter: Comfort and Love from the World's Best Therapy Dog

Baxter comforts patients at San Diego Hospice and Palomar Pomerado Hospital in San Diego, where he lives with his owners, Melissa Joseph and Dennis Bussey.


This is the best part of the page -- it's where you tell me what animals mean to you. People have left some of the most amazing comments here and if you have time I recommend you have a read of some of them.

I love to hear your stories or simply your reactions to the idea of pets as therapy. Thanks so much for taking the time to comment and share.

© 2010 Indigo Janson

What Do You Think of Pets for Therapy? - Do your animal friends help you to feel better?

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  • profile image

    myra-bardsleywoods 3 years ago

    I have a dog and they are great therapy ! Nice story!!

  • CritterZoneUSA profile image

    CritterZoneUSA 3 years ago

    Great info about pets for therapy. It is really amazing how intuitive animals can be. We have several stories on our blog about pets that have helped save their owners' lives thanks to that perceptiveness. If you are interested, you can find them here:

  • Radgrl profile image

    Radgrl 3 years ago

    I love animals. I have 3 dogs, 2 cats and a parrot. I lost a sweet baby not that long ago. My 7 year old Pekingnese.

    I love small dogs especially. They show they love you every day.

    Nice article

  • chrisilouwho profile image

    chrisilouwho 3 years ago

    Thanks for this, I don't know what I would do without the comfort of my dog sometimes. It's great to hear other stories as well, thanks for sharing.

  • profile image

    ShelbyLinMarie 3 years ago

    I volunteered for the Humane Society of Genesee County for seven years and one of the activities that I lead was to take older dogs or puppies and kittens to a local retirement home. The residents lined up outside of the door every month for the chance to interact with those sweet furry friends. I have never in my life been without fur kids and I never want to be. This is a great lens. Thank you.

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