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We know pets make great companions for people living with dementia, but it’s not only cats and dogs that are being used to bring pleasure and comfort…

Patting a dog or stroking a cat can bring great enjoyment to a person with dementia, but can guinea pigs, rabbits, hens and ferrets do the same?

The benefits of pets as therapy are already well known. Cuddling and bonding with an animal can help to ease loneliness, aid relaxation and even boost self-esteem. Many care homes now welcome visits from dogs and cats through charities such as Pets As Therapy, and an increasing number allow residents to bring a treasured pet with them.

But Stepney City Farm in London has taken the idea further by introducing a menagerie of furry creatures to hospitals and care homes.

‘We take small, furry and feathery animals – including guinea pigs, rabbits, chickens and ferrets – to meet isolated older people facing disadvantage,’ says Merlin Strangeway, from Stepney City Farm in London.

These creatures offer comfort physically and emotionally, bringing about much conversation, reminiscence and laughter. We are passionate about linking nature and laughter in later life.’

The farm isn’t the first to offer this kind of therapy. Unforgettable told you about a project called HenPower in the North East over a year ago. The project encourages people with dementia to care for hens and has proven so popular that it’s now been adopted by 40 care homes nationwide.

Animals can also have a calming effect, helping to promote health and wellbeing, lower blood pressure and heart rate and even reduce the use of medication for aggression.

We love hearing about quirky projects like these that have the potential to bring pleasure, social activity and better health to so many people. Do you agree? We’d love to hear your views. Email us at happytohelp@unforgettable.org and tell us what you think.