Apart from providing unconditional acceptance and love, animal–human interaction also offers health benefits, such as the potential to lower your blood pressure. That’s according to Dr Marieanna le Roux, lecturer in the Department of Psychology at Stellenbosch University (SU) and collaborator of the non-profit organisation Pets as Therapy (PAT).
PAT takes volunteering pet owners and their pets on therapeutic visits to hospitals, hospices, retirement homes, frail-care facilities, special-needs schools, residential care centres and, of late, to SU. According to Le Roux, these visits are a source of companionship, support, comfort, pleasure, stress relief and stimulation for those suffering from illness, impairment or simply homesickness.
Most students who attend the sessions at SU every Tuesday reside on campus and miss their own pets back home. “These sessions offer students the opportunity to touch and play with the pets in an informal setting. Activities include meet-and-greet, play and interaction,” Le Roux explains.
Considerable research done in the field of animal–human interaction has shown just how much value animals add to human lives. Le Roux said: “while it’s not therapy as such, something certainly happens inside a person when interacting with a pet. Students go through a lot during their time at university, and these visits help them cope with stress, reduce their blood pressure, and even calm down the pets.”
Founded in 2001, PAT has more than 180 registered volunteers who visit more than 85 institutions nationwide on a voluntary basis. The organisation has branches in Cape Town, Stellenbosch, Polokwane, Port Elizabeth and East London.
For more on PAT, visit https://www.pat.org.za/.
By Asiphe Nombewu
Source Stellenbosch University