The Greeks were the first to use animals, specifically horses, to give joy. Then, in the 1600s, physicians were reported to have been using horses to improve the physical and mental health of their patients. Farm animals were also used in the 1940s by the American Red Cross on a farm where veterans would work with the animals and even get their minds on something besides war and other associated traumas. During the 1960s, the first formal research involving animal therapy began. Dr. Boris Levinson found that his dog had a positive effect on mentally impaired young patients. Specifically, he discovered that these patients were more comfortable and likely to socialize with his dog than with other humans. The noticeable changes in human behavior when interacting with animals is the main reason why AAT has become such an integral part of today’s therapeutic practices.
Having a dog or a cat decreased the risk of enduring another heart attack. For the elderly, they assist with feelings of depression and loneliness. Pets ease aggression presented by those with dementia and Alzheimer’s. They also provide the elderly with companionship and someone to take care of, reducing feelings of helplessness which is common with the sick and old. Furthermore, pets are great for reducing a child’s risk of allergies and asthma because having a pet around changes the microbiome of a person. It goes to show that even just owning a pet can cause significant positive changes in your overall health and mental well-being.