Pets And Emotional Support. Statistics show having a pet lowers blood pressure, manages anxiety, decreases depressive symptoms, boosts our immune systems, enhances our sense of emotional well being, decreases feelings of loneliness, raises our self-image, and promotes our ability to trust. Under most circumstances, having a pet is a healthy and healing experience. Today an estimated 50 million households have pets. In addition to 120 million pet dogs and cats, people make pets of birds, fish, rabbits, hamsters, as well as a variety of exotic pets, including pigs and reptiles. With the decrease in attachment bonds in our society over the last several decades, we have seen increases in depression, loneliness, lack of trust, and a heightened sense of vulnerability.
People don’t feel the closeness, the sense of social engagement, and the intimacy with others that they experienced in the past. This has a lot to due with people not living in the same community throughout their lives, when communication was more personal and travel wasn’t as widely available. Pets have served as substitute sources of attachment in our lives and compensate for some of the losses we feel in an increasingly impersonal era.
Pets are an important source of emotional attachment that can be as significant as, and sometimes even stronger than, the bonds formed between people. The purpose of attachment, according to developmental theory, is to form an affectional bond and to provide a sense of safety and security. These needs, which are suppose to be formed early in one’s life, are directed toward a few specific people and tend to endure throughout one’s life span. Any relationship, not just those between people, can become an attachment relationship if it fills our needs for safety and security. Filling these needs with pets sometimes can be easier than trying to develop or sustain them with people.
Pets provide a bond that is genuine and a source of unconditional love and acceptance. Even supportive friends and family members find it difficult to provide the validation and acceptance that a dog or cat can give to a person. As long as a pet is treated well, it will forgive us for any bad behavior. The pet remains loyal, consistent, and shows unconditional approval. Because of this pets address our needs for trust, safety and security, for inclusion, interaction, and for consistency over time. Pets demand little from us and are a source of immediate and consistent feedback, something that is hard to find in the social world.
Pets also perform an important role in families. They provide a common focus of attention for families that may not communicate much. Taking care of a pet – walking the dog, feeding, grooming and bathing are duties that can be shared by different members of a family. Thus, they tend to bring families closer together. Pets can also provide a diversion from the conflict or tension felt by family members, and, unfortunately, they can become the target for misdirected anger meant for other members of the family. Similarly, they can become the focus for love which family members may have difficulty expressing toward each other. In many respects some pets are important members of families.
As a Marriage Counselor I help individuals develop and foster relationships. A relationship can consist of any two entities. A couple, a mother and offspring, an individual can have a relationship with themselves, and a person and their pet. All are very important in that they fill a need.
In Couples and Marriage Counseling I also offer a service whereby if you want to travel with your dog or cat I am able to talk to you about how your pet can become your “emotional support” pet or “Service Animal” for air flights. Typically airfare for pets is $100 one-way. Your pet can fly free if he/she is considered your service animal, managing anxiety and decreasing any depressive symptoms during air flight. If you would like more information on how your pet can fly FREE please call me at (858) 735-1139.