We’ve all heard of therapy dogs. They can be found all over: in hospitals, schools, rehabilitation centers, and even libraries. Our goats work as therapy animals by providing affection when they snuggle and stretch during Goat Yoga. Dogs and goats aren’t the only animals who work as therapy animals, though. There is a diverse menagerie of beasts who provide emotional support to us humans.
While some horses are therapy animals, their size and strength can be intimidating or even frightening. Miniature horses, though, are so tiny that they have all the beauty, grace, and charm of a full-size horse without the intimidation, making them excellent therapy animals found on farms all over the country. These animals have even been trained to support people in hospitals and assisted living facilities.
Larger farm animals like llamas and alpacas can be effective therapy animals as they are friendly, curious, and cuddly soft. While only a few dozen llamas are registered as therapy animals in the US, more are becoming therapy animals as word spreads of their work.
While not always popular with the neighbors, even ducks have worked as therapy animals. One veteran kept 14 ducks as therapy animals to help relieve symptoms from depression and PTSD.
Not all therapy animals come from the farm, though. Capuchin monkeys have often been highly trained as service animals for people with severe disabilities, but they can also work as therapy animals. Their friendly nature and humanlike behavior can help boost mood and bring a smile to anyone’s face.
Even rodents like pet rats, mice, and guinea pigs can be therapy animals. It’s no secret that these animals are popular as classroom pets, and for good reason: these little busy-bodies can be fun to watch and comforting to hold in the palm of your hand.
If you’re looking for a therapy animal and are not into cute and cuddly or have allergies, snakes are an interesting option. While these slinky reptiles may not be for everyone, their calm, idle nature can be comforting for autistic people. Snakes and other reptiles—like iguanas—require far less care than other therapy animals like dogs and goats, too, making them a suitable therapy animal for those looking for a low-maintenance pet.
Quite possibly one of the most surprising therapy animals of all would be the tarantula. These enormous spiders have worked doing exposure therapy to help treat people with arachnophobia. After several hours handling and observing eight-legged friends, some people have been able to work through their fear of spiders.
When it comes to choosing treatment with a therapy animal, keep an open mind and remember that different personalities and traits make all kinds of animals great for different kinds of therapy and support.