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Amate Animalia, a charity based in the Cotswolds who educate people about exotic animals & their specialist needs, recently bought in some of their rescued animals offering a ‘pets as therapy’ session for the children and families staying at Helen & Douglas House.

Amate Animalia offer 1-1 sessions with the children and families allowing them to hold each animal if they want to. They also tell the stories about all about the animals. Some of the children played, cuddled, chatted and interacted with their animal companions whilst others quietly enjoyed the presence of the animal in silence.

8 animals came on the recent visit including baby hedgehogs, a meerkat, a skunk, two lambs, a barn owl, and a parrot. The hospice often arranges for animals to visit because of the positive effects it has on the children including reduced anxiety and stress, relaxation, soothing companionship, comfort as well as excitement, joy, and laughter. Pet therapy uses the longstanding bond between humans and animals which Florence Nightingale first used in the 1800s.

The physical benefits of pet therapy can:

  • Reduce physical pain
  • Reduce blood pressure
  • Promote an improved heart rate and cardiovascular health
  • Increase range of motion and bodily strength of patients.

Social and emotional benefits of pet therapy

Animals also have a profound, impact on the social and emotional well-being. The soothing presence and unconditional affection of animals can:

  • Reduce feelings of loneliness
  • Reduce feelings of depression
  • Lower levels of anxiety, agitation and aggression
  • Encourage communication

Kathy Patching, Manager of Helen House said “Animals and their handlers have the unique ability to bring transformative joy and comfort to children who are terminally ill. The longstanding bond between humans and animals can bring excitement, humour, the opportunity for unconditional love, and soothing companionship to the children (and their families and the Helen & Douglas House staff as well). These animal visits promote activity, conversation, and emotional connection. On this recent visit as well as the excitement of anticipation and a wonderful time spent exploring textures, sounds and smells of the animals one youngster was transfixed by the parrot. They had a very long and interactive “communication” which was truly priceless”.