Pet therapy in long-term care isn’t just about dogs and cats.
Llamas and alpacas are becoming a more familiar sight, according to the New York Times. Most are farm animals taken to assisted living communities, nursing homes and other settings by their owners, according to the media outlet, although some of them are registered with Pet Partners, which signs up therapy animals that work with memory care residents and other populations.
In addition to cats, dogs, llamas and alpacas, Pet Partners also registers mini horses, mini pigs, rabbits, birds, guinea pigs and domesticated rats for therapy purposes, according to its website.
Llamas are safe to hug and are attuned to people’s emotions, animal owners told the newspaper article.
One small study into the use of llamas as therapy animals with children on the autism spectrum found that “children engaged in significantly greater use of language and significantly social interaction in the occupational therapy sessions incorporating animals than in the standard occupational therapy sessions.”
Evidence for the long-term effects of animal therapy is limited, however, Western Carolina University psychology professor Hal Herzog, Ph.D. told the media outlet.