Simon treats anxiety, trauma, stress and life transitions, and has a few nurses as therapy clients. She says pets can offer much-needed stress relief.
“It’s proven that when you’re petting a dog or cat you release serotonin,” she said. “Also, your heart rate decreases and so does your anxiety, just from the motion and the actual petting of the dog.”
Another boost from interacting with pets: They make you smile. They also make people you encounter while with your pet smile, which is therapeutic for the owner.
Simon “employs” her Maltipoo (Maltese + poodle), Riley, to play with clients, but said “any animal can be a source of emotional support.”
Dogs are more reliably responsive to an owner’s emotions. “They can also read people better than cats,” Simon said. “But cats are also comforting to pet and cuddle as long as they’re willing to have that.”
Simon emphasized owning a pet is not the only way to reap the benefits of pet therapy. She recommends cat cafes and groups that allow you to help socialize rescue animals let you interact with the pets but not have to walk or clean up after them..