Expert Veterinary Internal Medicine and Endocrinology Consulting Services
Animal Visitation Program (AVP) Reduces Cortisol Levels of University Students: A Randomized Controlled Trial
July 18, 2019
University students report high levels of stress. Although causal work is limited, one popular approach to promote stress relief is animal visitation programs (AVPs). We conducted a randomized trial (N = 249) examining effects of a 10-minute AVP on students’ salivary cortisol levels. Undergraduate students were randomly assigned to one of four conditions: hands-on AVP (petting cats and dogs; n = 73), AVP observation (watching others pet animals; n = 62), AVP slideshow (viewing images of same animals; n = 57), or AVP waitlist (n = 57). Participants collected salivary cortisol upon waking, and two samples were collected 15 and 25 minutes after the 10-minute condition, reflecting cortisol levels at the beginning and end of the intervention.
Controlling for students’ basal cortisol, time awake, and circadian pattern, students in the hands-on condition had lower posttest cortisol compared to slideshow (β = .150, p = .046), waitlist (β = .152, p = .033), and observation (β = .164, p = .040). A 10-minute college-based AVP providing hands-on petting of cats and dogs provides momentary stress relief.