Your Chihuahua, Siamese, or Appaloosa can do more for you than you think! Years of research and observation have shown that people who have pets around on a regular basis live longer, are healthier, are less prone to anxiety, and suffer less from depression. Pet owners also have lower blood pressure, and sleep better at night. Spending time with furry or feathered friends can also help lower stress and speed recovery.
Petting your dog or cat, and talking to any animal for that matter, can draw people out of isolation and help ease the sense of loneliness. Pets are magnificent listeners and give unconditional love, which is often just what someone needs during the hard times in life. 
How Pets Are Used in Therapy
Today, animals are incorporated into therapy not just in the home. A wide variety of people are now using pets to lift their mood:
- Patients in hospitals recovering from surgery or in long term care
- Nursing home residents, retirement communities, and hospice care patients
- Psychologically or emotionally troubled adults and children
- Adults and children who are suffering from physical disabilities
- Prison inmates or those who are under house arrest
- Disaster victims or those who have suffered abuse of any sort
There are many different types of animals that can be used in pet assisted therapy sessions. Each animal type has been shown to help patients in different ways. Here are some of the most common animals used in therapy sessions:
Dogs are the most common therapy pet used in the United States because they are easy to train and temperaments are easy to see and select. Dogs are easy to bring into most places where therapy sessions might need to take place- hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and so forth. They provide unconditional love and are very patient with older and younger people who may need some company during therapy sessions.
Cats and Pet Assisted Therapy
Cats are not as common as dogs but they can be useful in pet assisted therapy. They help teach boundaries and the importance of cause and effect and interrelationships. Cats can be very helpful in comforting patients with emotional disorders or those who suffer from anxiety or depression. They are not as intimidating as dogs and are good for patients who are very timid or fearful. Many people find a purring cat to be very comforting and the act of petting a cat that is happily purring can help relax and soothe patients.
Horses and Therapy
Horse are very popular in therapy sessions that focus on movement and motor skills. They can be used for both physical and psychological/emotional therapy. Children with walking, balance, spinal, and movement issues can benefit from riding horse because of the swaying motion one experiences while riding. Horses can also help teach cause and effect and can be used to teach patients how their actions and behaviors impact others.
Small animals like rabbits have been used to some success in animal assisted therapy sessions in the past. Their small size makes them easy to bring to places larger animals could not go. They are less intimidating for patients who may be fearful of dogs or cats. This is why many dentist, doctors’ offices, and nursing homes have a fish tank on site.