Pet therapy, or animal assisted therapy, is a type of therapy that involves animals as a form of treatment. The goal of pet therapy is to improve a patient’s social, emotional, or cognitive functioning. Animals can also be useful for educational and motivational effectiveness for participants.
Animals are tools for therapy, because they can make people feel safe and loved when they have been deprived of social interaction or hurt by other people. They do not communicate with words, and so patients afraid of approaching people can comfortably approach an animal. Additionally, a therapist who brings along a pet is viewed as being less dangerous to the patient, and so the previously uncommunicative patient is willing to share more with the professional. Animals commonly used for therapy include dogs, cats, horses, birds, rabbits, and other small animals.