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The Healing Power of Therapy Animals: Dogs Horses Cats and Rabbits

Introduction to Therapy Animals

Animals, whether furry or scaly, have a profound impact on our lives. They are our constant companions, and studies have shown that they can also provide significant therapeutic benefits.

This is where therapy animals come in; animals specially trained to provide emotional or physical support to humans in various settings. Therapy animals, also known as therapeutic visitation animals, animal-assisted therapy animals, or facility therapy animals, have been used for centuries to improve the mental and physical wellbeing of humans.

In this article, we will explore the various aspects of therapy animals. We will start by defining what therapy animals are and differentiate between them and service and emotional support animals.

We will also look at the different types of therapy animals and the requirements they must meet to provide therapy.

Definition of Therapy Animals

Therapy animals are animals trained to provide emotional or physical support to humans in various settings. They are used to improve the mental and physical well-being of individuals who may be undergoing therapy or recovery from an ailment.

Difference between Therapy Animals and Service/Emotional Support Animals

While service animals, such as guide dogs for the visually impaired, are trained to perform specific tasks for their owners, therapy animals are trained to provide comfort and emotional support to individuals. Emotional support animals, on the other hand, are not trained to do specific tasks, but rather to provide emotional support to individuals.

They are not granted public access under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and require a doctor’s recommendation for therapy, whereas service and therapy animals do not.

Types of Therapy Animals

There are different types of therapy animals, and each serves a unique purpose in providing emotional support to individuals.

Therapeutic Visitation Animals: These animals visit healthcare facilities, schools, and retirement homes to interact with the residents.

They provide emotional support to patients and help to alleviate their anxiety and stress.

Animal-Assisted Therapy Animals: These animals, usually dogs, assist therapists in helping patients overcome their emotional and psychological challenges.

Through their interactions, patients can learn valuable social skills, improve communication, and build self-confidence.

Facility Therapy Animals: These animals live at the facility and provide emotional support to patients on a daily basis.

They may also help in rehabilitation programs as a form of reward for patients who achieve certain milestones.

Requirements for Therapy Animals

To be a therapy animal, an animal must meet specific requirements. These requirements include a veterinarian’s assessment, basic training, and screening.

A veterinarian’s assessment ensures that the animal is healthy and fit to provide therapy. Basic training ensures that the animal is well-behaved in public settings.

Screening determines if the animal has the right temperament and personality for therapy work.

Therapy Dogs

Therapy dogs are perhaps the most common therapy animals. They are trained to provide emotional support to individuals in various settings.

Characteristics of

Therapy Dogs

Therapy dogs are calm, relaxing, friendly, and obedient. Whether they are providing comfort to patients in hospitals or visiting children in schools, therapy dogs remain calm and provide a comforting presence.

They are trained to remain focused on their handlers and ignore distractions, making them perfect for providing therapy in crowded environments. Common Settings for

Therapy Dogs

Therapy dogs are used in various settings to provide emotional support to individuals.

They are commonly used in hospitals to provide companionship to patients and alleviate their anxiety and stress. They are also used in nursing homes, schools, and detention centers to provide comfort and emotional support to isolated individuals.

Breeds Commonly Used as

Therapy Dogs

While any breed of dog can be a therapy dog with proper training, Labradors and Golden Retrievers are popular choices. These breeds are known for their gentle temperament and loving nature, making them perfect for therapy work.

Other breeds frequently used as therapy dogs include Poodles, Beagles, and Terriers.

Accessing Therapy Dog Services

The National Service Animal Registry is one of the most trusted registries for therapy dogs. They offer registration of therapy dogs and provide identification cards for the handlers.

This ensures that the therapy dog is properly trained and certified and can access various locations with their handler.


In conclusion, therapy animals provide a profound impact on our lives, promoting physical, emotional, and psychological healing. Therapy dogs, in particular, have been invaluable in providing emotional support to individuals in various settings.

Whether you are in a hospital or a nursing home, a therapy dog’s presence can make all the difference in the world. By understanding the different types of therapy animals and their requirements, we can tap into the therapeutic benefits that they offer.

Therapy Horses

Beyond therapy dogs, therapy horses have also been found to be beneficial to human health and wellbeing. Equine-facilitated therapy, also known as horse therapy, has been used to address various mental health issues and addiction treatment, and it has also been found to benefit veterans’ groups.

In this article, we will look at the benefits of using therapy horses, activities that involve therapy horses, and the difference between riding and non-riding therapy horses. Benefits of Using

Therapy Horses

Therapy horses have been shown to provide significant mental and emotional health benefits.

Equine-facilitated therapy can be used to address a range of psychological issues, including anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The interactions with the horses result in a calming effect that helps individuals relax and reduce stress and anxiety levels.

Additionally, equine-facilitated therapy can be used to help individuals build trust and self-confidence, improve communication and work ethic, and build a better sense of self-awareness. Activities Involving

Therapy Horses

Therapy horses engage in numerous activities that are designed to help individuals undergoing therapy.

Grooming, for example, is a common activity that helps in building trust and building self-esteem. This involves learning how to communicate and work with the horse, which in turn builds self-confidence.

Trust building is another activity, which helps individuals learn how to trust themselves and the horse. This is achieved by learning how to communicate with the horse and understanding their behavior.

Work ethic is another activity that helps individuals learn responsibility and discipline. For example, feeding the horse and cleaning their stall teaches individuals the importance of taking care of themselves and their surroundings.

Lastly, working with therapy horses can help individuals develop a better understanding of their emotions and how they affect themselves and the horse. Riding vs Non-Riding

Therapy Horses

Equine-assisted therapy can be divided into two categories riding and non-riding therapy.

Riding therapy involves supervised participation in activities such as horseback riding, which can help individuals develop motor skills, coordination, and balance. Riding therapy is ideal for patients with physical disabilities such as spinal cord injuries, cerebral palsy, and multiple sclerosis.

Non-riding therapy, on the other hand, focuses on activities that involve interacting with the horse this may include grooming, leading, or simply spending time with the horses. Non-riding therapy is suitable for individuals with mental and psychological issues.

This form of therapy provides an opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of themselves and their emotions, which in turn, helps them improve their quality of life.

Therapy Cats

Cats, just like dogs and horses, can also be trained to provide emotional support and therapy to individuals. Unlike therapy dogs, therapy cats are preferred for their easy-to-transport nature and their calming presence, and they require less physical activity, making them ideal for indoor facilities.

In this section, we will explore the advantages of using therapy cats, settings where therapy cats are useful, and the importance of socialization. Advantages of Using

Therapy Cats

Therapy cats have numerous advantages over other therapy animals.

First, therapy cats are easy to transport and require very minimal space, even in confined locations. Secondly, they have a calming presence that helps to lower blood pressure and reduce anxiety and stress.

Additionally, therapy cats are a great source of companionship, and they provide emotional support to individuals in need of therapy. Settings Where

Therapy Cats are Useful

Therapy cats are particularly useful in nursing homes, hospitals, schools, and assisted living facilities.

They can provide emotional support and relaxation to elderly and ill patients who may be suffering from depression and anxiety. Therapy cats can also be brought into schools to help children with emotional and behavioral issues.

They can assist children in learning self-control and emotional regulation. Similarly, therapy cats in assisted living facilities can provide a calm environment for residents who may be suffering from loneliness or boredom.

Importance of Socialization for

Therapy Cats

Socialization is an essential part of a therapy cat’s training. It involves teaching the cat how to interact with different types of people and environments.

A therapy cat needs to be comfortable in new environments and around new people. Desensitization is a common technique used to help therapy cats adjust to new environments.

Leash training is also a critical aspect of socialization that teaches the cat to maintain proximity to its handler while in unfamiliar settings. This ensures that the therapy cat is comfortable and relaxed during its interactions with individuals undergoing therapy.


In conclusion, therapy animals have become a valuable tool in promoting physical, emotional, and psychological healing. Therapy horses provide significant benefits in addressing various mental and emotional health issues, while therapy cats offer a calming presence that promotes relaxation and companionship.

Both therapy animals have unique advantages and can benefit individuals in different settings. Socialization and training remain integral in producing effective and well-behaved therapy animals that are capable of providing emotional support to individuals in need of therapy.

Therapy Rabbits

Therapy rabbits are another type of small animal used to provide emotional support to humans in various settings. Due to their small size, quiet nature, and easy-to-transport characteristics, therapy rabbits can be an ideal therapy animal for individuals with special needs or those undergoing therapy.

In this article, we will explore the benefits of using therapy rabbits, the traits of an ideal therapy rabbit, and additional skills for therapy rabbits. Benefits of using

Therapy Rabbits

Like other therapy animals, therapy rabbits provide significant emotional benefits to individuals undergoing therapy.

Their quiet and gentle nature makes them an ideal choice for individuals with sensory processing disorders or individuals with anxiety or depression. Interacting with therapy rabbits has been shown to lower blood pressure, decrease stress and anxiety levels and promote relaxation.

Rabbits also have the added benefit of being hypoallergenic, making them a good choice for individuals with pet allergies.

Traits of an Ideal Therapy Rabbit

The traits needed for therapy rabbits go beyond the physical characteristics of the rabbits. Ideal therapy rabbits should possess a calm and docile temperament, be well-socialized, and enjoy being handled and petted.

Calm and docile rabbits are unlikely to bite or scratch and are well-suited for the calm and gentle interactions involved in therapeutic settings. Well-socialized rabbits are more likely to accept interaction from strangers and shouldn’t be skittish in unfamiliar surroundings.

Therapy rabbits should also be comfortable with being petted and held, to allow for proper interaction with humans. Additional Skills for

Therapy Rabbits

In addition to the traits of an ideal therapy rabbit, therapy rabbits need to have certain skills to operate effectively.

Litter box training is one such skill, which teaches rabbits where to eliminate both indoors and outdoors. This training helps to ensure that the therapy rabbit is well-behaved and pleasant to be around.

Furthermore, since leash training is another essential skill that allows therapy rabbits to be transported safely, it entails teaching the rabbit to walk comfortably on a leash and harness. This skill gives therapy rabbits the ability to accompany handlers to different locations without the risk of escape.


Therapy rabbits are small and quiet animals that can provide significant emotional support to individuals undergoing therapy. They have unique characteristics such as gentleness, calmness, and less allergenic issues, which make them a perfect choice for therapy settings.

The traits of an ideal therapy rabbit go beyond physical characteristics and include certain temperamental characteristics that allow them to interact effectively with humans. Additional skills such as litter box and leash training will ensure that therapy rabbits are well-behaved and easy to transport, making them suitable for various therapeutic settings.

By understanding the unique benefits and requirements of therapy rabbits, their roles in enhancing emotional well-being become clearer. In conclusion, therapy animals, including dogs, horses, cats, and rabbits, have a profound impact on human mental and physical well-being.

Therapy animals offer emotional and physical support while also serving to reduce anxiety, stress and help individuals build self-confidence and trust. Ideal therapy animal traits include calmness, gentleness, well-socialization, and additional skills including litter-box and leash training.

Through therapy animals, we can tap into the therapeutic benefits that they offer. Remember, therapy animals play a significant role in promoting physical, emotional, and psychological healing, and they are a valuable resource for individuals undergoing therapy.

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