AAT (Animal assisted therapy) is getting there: http://www.fox19.com/story/22592235/...-mental-health

If you are a pet lover, you know how happy an animal can make you feel. A growing body of scientific research is showing that pets can make an individual feel happier and healthier.

This explains the increasing use of animals in settings such as hospitals, nursing homes, schools, jails and mental institutions. Dogs and cats are most common. However, birds, fish and even horses are used.

Maple Knoll Village, a non-profit continuing care retirement community, found that pet therapy works well for residence in hospice care.

Representatives of Maple Knoll detail various physical and mental health benefits of pet therapy.

Physical Health:

lowers blood pressure

improves cardiovascular health

releases endorphins (oxytocin) that have a calming effect

diminishes overall physical pain

the act of petting produces an automatic relaxation response, reducing the amount of medication some folks need

Mental Health:

lifts spirits and lessens depression

decreases feelings of isolation and alienation

encourages communication

provides comfort

increases socialization

reduces boredom

lowers anxiety

helps children overcome speech and emotional disorders

creates motivation for the client to recover faster

reduces loneliness