UCF brings in therapy animals to help with exam-related stress

Hundreds of students attend events

By Adrienne Cutway - Web Editor , James Sparvero - Reporter

ORLANDO, Fla. - Preparing for final exams can be "ruff." That's why the University of Central Florida brought in therapy cats and dogs to cuddle with stressed-out students. 

UCF Counseling and Psychological Services hosted the Paws-a-tively Stress Free and Purrr-fectly Stress Free events from noon to 2 p.m. Wednesday on campus.

Hundreds of students took a break from studying for upcoming finals to play with trained therapy cats and dogs.

"Spring is always a hectic time," UCF senior Kalyn Cook told News 6 Wednesday.

The environmental studies major said she visited the half-dozen therapy dogs to take her mind for the moment off upcoming exams.

“It's a nice way to not think about finals for a little bit," Cook said.

"Hosting a Paws and Purrs event for students, especially during high-stress time of the semester, is a wonderful way to help our students take a break and help manage their stress," CAPS associate director Teresa Michaelson-Chmelir said. "Research has shown that playing with dogs and cats significantly reduces stress and positively impacts mood. Here at CAPS, we are committed to supporting our students' mental health and are always looking for new and innovative ways to help support students that are grounded in best practice methods and sound research."

The Paws-a-tively Stress Free event has been hosted two to three times a semester for the past few years, but Wednesday's Purrr-fectly Stress Free was the first time therapy cats have been offered. Michaelson-Chmelir said 212 students attended that event and 188 attended Paws-a-tively Stress Free.

She said the vast majority of students said they're less stressed and their moods are positively impacted after attending the events.

"You can tell that many UCF students love pets," UCF counseling and psychological services Director Dr. Karen Hofmann said telling News 6 all the students leave the counseling building feeling better than when they came in.

"It's hard for them to even leave," she said.

Students told News 6 Wednesday that they appreciate the gesture from the university.

"It's a nice perk," Cook said.

Final exams for the spring 2017 semester are being administered April 26 through May 2. The full testing schedule is available here.

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