How pet therapy is beneficial for teens

N'deye M'baye and her mom just adopted Chester this past spring, but already the teen's bond with the 7-year-old orange and white tabby is unbreakable.

"He's a part of our family now," she said. "I love him to death, I'd do anything for Chester."

M'baye is 13, and getting ready to enter the eighth grade and already knows the stresses of adolescence all-too-well. Having a pet, she says, has helped her cope.

"As a teenager of course, there's gonna be rough times, like school and grades and your parents always being on you. A good thing to have is an animal, just to be able to come home and decompress, jut to have someone that's your furry friend by your side," she said. 

She's not alone in her experience. Psychologists say pets can have real emotional and physiological benefits for teens.

"When you pet an animal, not only does it feel good,  but biologically there's an outcome that occurs such as reduction of heart rate to get you to feel a little more comfortable and more importantly you see the stress hormone cortisol go down," explained Dr. Aubrey Fine, a Professor Emeritus at Cal Poly State University who has written books about children and animals.

"Being a teenager can be a rough period for some teens, the sense of loneliness, the sense of isolation," he said. " In fact, animals can help diffuse that by providing another forum for that social engagement and really for kids to know they can be loved and give love to others."

M'baye definitely gets that warm fuzzy feeling from Chester, and she's also learning new forms of responsibility when it comes to taking care of him. Most importantly, she appreciates having him to lean on, without having to worry about him judging or reacting.

"They can't tell you what to do, they won't talk back," she said of animals,  "So it's just to be able to let stuff out and be able to just relax and have a good time."