80 million. This is the number of pets in France in 2021, according to a Kantar study taken by Facco (Federation of animal feed manufacturers). Among them, about 15 million cats and 7 million dogs. There is no doubt: the French love animals.
Moreover, in 2016, 51% of them prefer to spend time with their dog or cat than with their friends, according to an OpinionWay survey. But the 30 Million Friends Foundation reports that 100,000 hairballs are left behind each year. “People who abuse animals drive me crazy. Just look at everything we go through when they love us unconditionally.underlined Gabrielle, 28 years old.
Like many others, he is one of those people who says he likes animals more than people. “They are sincere and transparent, without bad intentionshe argued. When you look at people, you are destroying the planet, you are inherently evil – although of course some people are good.”
The animal will not fail us
Elizabeth, 59, shared her opinion: “Man acts with his brain, while the animal acts with his heart. He is pure. He does not think about money, for example, he is not perverted. For me, the type of man is a fool, a liar, without debt heart, jealous, selfish, mean, violent and pretentious. Animals are humble and only ask for love.” To help her favorite companions, she contributes monthly to various foundations such as 30 million friends, SPA or the Brigitte Bardot Foundation.
We owe it to them that, because of all the well-being they bring us: specifically it has been shown that living with a dog increases life expectancy, reduces the risk of mortality from all causes by 24%, and 31% when it comes to cardiovascular causes.
For Pierre, 38, the unconditional love for animals is what makes these relationships worthwhile. “Whether I’m sad, angry or in a good mood, animals love me too. Whether I’m rich or poor, he loves me too. Whether I’m in an apartment or a house, an owner or a tenant, he loves me too. Whether I’m black or white, he loves me toohe develops. Relationships with people are marked by doubt and uncertainty, while disappointment, sadness and misunderstanding are completely excluded from a relationship with an animal.
People who let others down, this is the reason most cited by customers of Jean-Yves Gauchet, veterinarian in Toulouse and author of My cat and I treat each other!. This is the case of Maé, 23 years old: “I’ve known so many betrayals from people that I’m more reassured than my dog. When I look at him, I know our love is unshakable. After a bad day, I go to his basket and we cuddle for twenty minutes until, once, we slept together.
A soothing, even saving presence
For Jean-Yves Gauchet, it is no coincidence that the cat is the most present in French homes: “He is clean, less demanding than a dog and very cuddly. This last point is important, because we all have a tactile deficit, especially if we live alone. However, the cat likes- wants to be groomed, his coat is waiting for: on his skin, at the base of the hairs, there are tiny receptors that detect softness. When he purrs, that’s the icing on the cake.”
Purring is a sound that cats make to communicate with each other, but it also has beneficial effects on humans, continues the veterinarian, father of “purr therapy”: “When a cat purrs near us, we produce pheromones, serotonin, oxytocin and endorphins that calm us down. It’s like a stress reliever!
This is why the company of a small cat (or any other pet) can be recommended for people who are anxious, socially uncomfortable, or even in the case of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). .
At age 20, Zou, in training as a veterinary assistant, lived with chickens, rabbits, hamsters, cats and horses, and was diagnosed with Asperger’s autism. “I don’t understand innuendo, I can’t always insert myself into conversationshe explained. So for me, talking to animals is easier. Sometimes people say things that do not match their intentions, the language of animals is more genuine and calm.
In June 2020, the Journal of Autism and Development Disorders published a study confirming that animal-assisted therapy (AAT, also called “zootherapy”) with dogs. “can be used to reduce perceived stress and symptoms of agoraphobia, and to improve social awareness and communication in adults with ASD”.
Pet therapy is becoming more and more popular
The idea is to use animals (especially dogs and horses) as mediators between caregivers and patients, to act not in a purely medical sense, but in the management of emotions, stress, communication…
Animal therapy is therefore useful for people with ASD, but not only, says François Beiger, founder of the French Institute of animal therapy, who also advises it in cases of Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, learning disabilities or language, depression… “For example, the fact that an elderly person takes care of a dog will calm them down and allow them to start a conversation, perhaps talking about them when they were young”he describes.
More and more, zootherapy is inviting itself into nursing homes or psychiatric hospitals. The turnover of the French Institute of Animal Therapy increased by approximately 30 to 40% and the structure trained 542 professionals last year. Proof that discipline is now serious in France and the animals are certainly a great help to us.