Unusual Therapy Animals That Are Actually Changing Peoples’ Lives
For years, therapy animals have helped comfort and teach their human companions. While dogs are usually the first pets to come to mind when people think about therapy animals, that doesn’t mean they have to limit themselves. There’s a whole animal kingdom out there! And when it comes to animals, therapists are having their pick of the litter. Around the world, people are using some unusual animals to help with anxiety, blood pressure, stress and even autism. These animals are not only cute, but they’re helping achieve some unbelievable results.
Not For the ‘Phant of Heart
We’re not sure if the saying “Elephants never forget” is true, but in Thailand they’re creating some unforgettable experiences for children. At the Thai Elephant Conservation Center, therapists offer some lucky kids the opportunity to work with elephants on activities like painting, riding, and playing ball games with elephants.
Therapists say that letting children play and paint with elephants sparks imagination, and that riding the elephants improves posture and balance. And because elephants are known for their intelligence, these big mammals can be easily trained to interact gently with small children. Don’t be fooled by their rough skin, elephants are really just big softies!
Here’s a two-for-one deal: both llamas AND alpacas are helping provide people of all ages the perfect opportunity to cuddle all over the world, from Oregon to Australia. And therapists are finding that they shine as therapy animals, and are becoming the perfect hospital visitors.
Llamas and alpacas are said to alleviate loneliness, lower blood pressure and reduce stress in humans. Their calm demeanor means they are very accepting of hugs and snuggles, so they’re the perfect new best friends to have around. And who doesn’t want to spend the day petting an alpaca or llama? Sign us up!
Scaling Back Stress
Fear of snakes is one of the most common phobias, so it comes as a surprise that snakes are being used to actually relieve anxiety. Snake-based therapy is a service offered in London, England, and it’s becoming popular in Indonesia and the Philippines.
Snakes don’t tend to require much upkeep, so keeping a snake around doesn’t have to add to one’s daily stress. They also don’t make much noise, so they’re perfect for a moment of peace and quiet. Snakes have a tendency to like to curl up around small, warm places, making them a great pet for cuddling. Plus, those who attest for serpentine therapy say there’s a sense of achievement that comes with handling an animal that most people are too afraid to snuggle up with.
The Monkey Business
Monkeys and humans share a ton of similarities, so why not just hang out with monkeys all of the time? Because these animals are so intelligent and can be easily well-trained, monkeys make great comfort animals. Plus, their emotional intelligence mean some monkeys even know when you’re having a bad day. We wish we could say that for most humans.
Beyond emotional support, therapists are finding that Capuchin monkeys are excellent helpers for people with spinal or mobility issues. Because of their human-like hands and fine motor skills, these monkeys are able to help their humans do things that many other service animals cannot.
This Little Piggy…
A 70-pound pig doesn’t usually seem like the ideal candidate for a therapy pet, but a miniature Vietnamese pot-bellied pig named Buttercup is making headlines in San Francisco, California, for changing the lives of some students. Her owner, Lois Brady, says that pigs are a great therapy animals for young kids for a few unexpected reasons.
While some children can be scared of dogs, pigs can be more intriguing for youth, encouraging them to explore the unknown. Buttercup’s calm disposition allows her to put up with any aggressive behavior some kids can show at a young age, and she doesn’t bark or snap back. Not to mention, the curly tail is pretty cute too.
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