Going to the dogs. And the cats. And the birds.

by Karen on June 15, 2015

Mattie with Daisy Boone 2004 2 - Version 2Jim and I saw a TV news segment recently about a cat library in Las Cruces, New Mexico. To clarify, it’s not a library for cats or a library about cats. It’s a library of cats – or, more specifically, kittens – that employees in the offices of Dona Ana County can check out when they need a little stress relief.

Now, I’m not a cat person – I mean, I like cats just fine, but I wouldn’t want to live with one – and even I want to work for Dona Ana County, which houses its “library” in a big kitty condo in the reception area. (The kittens, by the way, come from a local animal shelter, and about 100 have been adopted from the cat library in the last two years.)

What is it about animals – dogs, cats, horses, even birds – that so often make us feel better when we’re a bit down?

At Duke University Hospital and Duke Cancer Center, trained therapy dogs visit cancer patients regularly. Research shows that pet therapy can reduce stress and depression and may even facilitate healing and rehabilitation, according to the Duke website.

There are pet therapy studies with heart failure patients at UCLA and with cancer patients at Mount Sinai Beth Israel. Therapeutic birds – cockatoos, macaws, parakeets – visit hospices and nursing homes in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Puppies help calm exam jitters at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. And, of course we all know about the importance of service animals.

I love snuggling with our dog, Mattie, when I’m sick or tired or sad. It doesn’t seem to matter to her that I’ve ignored her for half a day. When I’m finally feeling up for a cuddle, she’s more than willing to oblige.

But even folks who don’t have pets can derive pleasure from the furry and feathered. Search “Cute Animals” on YouTube and you’ll find 3.9 million results including this clip of unlikely animal companions. Or this one of Emperor Penguin chicks. Or this video of a dog relaxing on a hot summer day.

Are you smiling yet? I hope so.

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