Why pets are good for us

By Steve Dale, USA Today

Watch a Lassie movie and spit into a cup. It doesn’t sound like it, but this is cutting-edge research. By analyzing saliva, researcher Cheryl Krause-Parello can tell that merely watching a dog in a movie lowers people’s stress.

In recent years, research has demonstrated the healthful benefits of pets. Now, investigators are trying to figure out why pets are good for us. Krause-Parello, assistant professor and director of the Center for Nursing Research at Kean University in Union, N.J., learned that people feel better after watching a Lassie flick because their levels of cortisol, a hormone associated with stress, take a free fall.

“We once had to argue why this was a valid focus to conduct research,” says Alan Beck, director of the Center for the Human-Animal Bond at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., a pioneer in the field. “Today, the National Institutes of Health and science in general recognize the overall value of pets.

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