This literature review critically evaluates research that focuses on the social and emotional benefits of interacting with a companion animal. Companion animals have been hypothesized to offer many social benefits including facilitating human interaction, offering companionship and social support, decreasing loneliness, and fostering development of empathy. Companion animals have also been hypothesized to offer emotional benefits including decreasing distress while one is undergoing a medical procedure, decreasing a pet owner's negative mood, increasing self-esteem, and helping pet owners move through the grief process. Much of the research lacks an experimental and control group since people cannot be assigned to own pets, and for this reason more replication studies need to be conducted as well as studies with experimental designs. Researchers have found that interacting with companion animals is correlated with many benefits, but the effects can vary by individual and is not the same for every type of animal or person.
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