Cats make great therapy pets
Cats make great therapy pets. They have a tremendous calming effect on people, and there’s nothing more peaceful than having a kitty snuggle up to you, or purr when sitting in your lap.
While we often think of dogs when it comes to therapy pets, bringing smiles to the faces of those they visit in nursing homes and hospitals, cats can be great therapy pets, as well.
Bringing kitty to the nursing home
Paws can attest to this, as we would bring Lenny into the nursing home to visit our human Mom, who was dealing with the ravages of Alzheimer’s Disease. While our Mom certainly loved to see Lenny and pet his unbelievably soft fur, others enjoyed seeing him as well.
We would bring this grey and white striped tabby into the nursing home in his carrier, and walk around to some of the common areas to visit other residents. It was amazing to see how the kitty would make them more responsive. I used to have a kitty. Can I pet the kitty?
Paws was careful that Lenny did not get spooked, and we kept a tight reign on him when he was gently taken out of the carrier. After all, he was not used to seeing all these walkers and wheelchairs, and this was a bit new to him. He did amazingly well.
Be sure to get approved first
It was easy to get approved to visit. We had to show proof that Lenny was up-to-date with all of his vaccinations, and we had to sign some paperwork. It was well worth it to bring so much joy, to not just our Mom, but so many others.
Now that our human Mom has passed on, we think about returning to pet therapy. If you are going to get involved with pet therapy, be sure to check the rules out first. They’ll most likely differ from place to place.
Cats make great therapy pets
While doing research for another story a while ago, we discussed the benefits of cats as therapy pets with Pamela Barlow, animal behavior counselor with the ASPCA’s AAT (Animal Assisted Therapy) program. They work with Pet Partners (formerly known as the Delta Society), in New York City. She told us that cats are great therapy pets and companion animals, especially in the Big Apple because many apartments only allow cats.
Cats are mobile, portable and more bomb proof
Cats are mobile, portable, and more bomb proof. They are used to noise, sirens, honking horns, people, hot dog carts…. You can put the cat in a carrier and off you go on a bus, the subway, or a taxi. That’s not so easy with a big Labrador Retriever.
What’s more is that the cat creates a sense of escape, emotionally and physically, with a therapeutic and relaxing effect. The bond develops, not only from touch, but from gazing into a cat’s eyes, or experiencing their calming presence in the room. They can help sick people become pleasanter, and come out of their shells.
Pet therapy is all about the right match
While AA therapy has been around for some 40 years, there have been a lot of major changes in the last 20 years. It used to be sort of liaise fair. Now, it’s about finding the right animal for the right person in the right circumstances. If a person is looking forward to the pet visiting all week, and the animal rejects them, it is devastating. If the animal walks right up to them, and says hello and the person feels wow, that’s the kind of therapy we want.
Not every cat would be a great therapy cat
There’s no doubt, not every cat would make a great therapy cat. Clyde is scared of his own shadow. Even though he was Mom’s cat, it would not be fair to him or the residents to bring him in. His fear would cause him to cower, and the person might feel rejected. My Siamese, Linus, on the other hand, loves everyone, and is a snuggle bug. Lenny is the same,. He was young, and had been socialized around all kinds of people as a kitten. He just seemed like the perfect candidate for a therapy cat.
Leave your paw prints here
Have you ever thought about your cat getting involved with pet therapy. Have you ever brought your pet to visit a friend or relative in a nursing home or hospital? Do you think your cat would be a candidate for pet therapy? Please weigh in and join this interesting discussion.