Therapy Cats

Therapy Cats

Therapy Cats

Therapy cats speed up the recovery of ill people and comfort those who cannot get better. Therapy cats help to heal sick people by their presence. It works because it has been scientifically proven that the presence of a cat is beneficial to a person’s general welfare.

Because a therapy cat is called upon to enter strange places and meet strangers he or she must have a suitably affable and relaxed temperament. Therefore therapy cats are very well socialised in respect of interacting with people and other animals, particularly dogs.

A therapy provides his service in places such as hospitals, hospices, retirement homes, care homes and schools of all types. Children are particularly suited to receiving the benefits of meeting, stroking and generally interacting with therapy cats.

Therapy cats are able to help enhance a person’s mood, relax a person, lower a patient’s anxiety, put a smile on a sick person’s face and provide a moment of respite and distraction from the difficulties of being a patient or a disturbed child.

Scientific studies have firmly established that a person’s blood pressure can be lowered by the presence of a cat. The cat’s purr is believed to be beneficial in the healing process through its calming sound and its frequency.

Above all the other benefits, the gentle presence of a therapy cat allows a sick person to interact with nature again, to remind her that she is part of nature, to not be frightened and to find a natural, calming solace.

There are some famous therapy cats. Although a therapy cat does not have to be famous or a special sort of cat. They are all equally special. However, one therapy cat comes to my mind, Motzie. Motzie is in America. He is a very large cat. He is a second filial (two generations from the wild) Savannah cat. At one time, the world’s second largest domestic cat. Another exotic therapy cat is a first filial Bengal cat called: Striker.

On Facebook there are many therapy cats that have their own webpage. Here are some of them:

  • Dexter – registered with Pet Partners – guardian: Wendy.
  • Flash – certified with Love on a Leash – guardian: Jaetta Ferguson.
  • Pliny – therapy cat for Furry Friends Pet Assisted Therapy Services.
  • Smokey – Pet Partners registered.
  • Skylar – registered. Works in nursing homes. Raised by a foster carer who decided to adopt her.
  • Seven – registered with Pet Partners.
  • Pandora  – a Siamese cat that is herself a special needs cat because she has a disability concerning her eyesight. She works with at-risk kids in Phoenix, Arizona, US.
  • Oscar –  a famous cat who lives in a hospice and comforts residents who are dying. It is said that he can predict the onset of death.
  • Spagetti-Bob – tailless cat (lost tail in accident). Registered with Pet Partners. Works with Animal Humane Societies and Animal Ambassadors.
  • Jake – certified therapist. Works at Fort Collins, USA.

Dylan is an English fundraising cat. I think of him as a therapy cat as well. In the US therapy cats can be registered with an organisation called Pet Partners. At the date of this post, there are about 200 registered cats.

Strictly speaking, a therapy cat does not need special training – just evaluation. A cat just has to be himself because all the goodness and healing is within all domestic cats. However, to be registered a therapy cat has to be evaluated and Pet Partners provide training as well. Not all domestic cats are suited to the role.

When writing this, it occurred to me that vets who promote declawing of cats argue that one reason is to protect the elderly and vulnerable from scratches and yet I would be very surprised if any of the therapy cats mentioned on this page were declawed. I hope not because I would expect the cat’s guardian to be sensitive enough to realise that the declawing of cats is liable to make the cat less suited to her task as a therapy cat.

Associated: Benefits of animal assisted therapy

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Therapy Cats — 15 Comments

  1. I just worked with a patient in physical therapy this weekend who misses her cats terribly. I think frustration over missing her cats may actually be slowing her progress in getting better and getting home to them. I sure wish there was a way that her cats could come and visit. Cats don’t travel well and some facilities are less friendly than others concerning pets visiting or living there. I don’t know about that facility, because I was just picking up some hours at a place where I don’t work all that often. But I just think it would be nice if maybe on the weekends that woman’s cats could come and spend time with her. It’s a lot of work, I suppose, transporting two cats, setting up all their stuff, making sure they don’t get out of her room… But I think it would help her to get better. It’s just a gut feeling, one cat lover to another, that she needs her cats. But if you have even one nurse who “hates cats” or pleads being allergic to them, and the whole thing falls apart and causes more stress instead of relieving it. I still think she needs her cats to come visit her.

      • That would be the next step for her, but she was NWB until recently, non weight bearing. They don’t generally send people home who are NWB if they will be unable to maintain that. But the next step, as she gains strength, would be to go home with help and continue progress there. Coming back from an injury is a long, tough process, requiring mental as well as physical toughness. I just think the presence of a person’s companion animal can bring comfort and stengthen their spirit to help them continue doing what needs to be done to return home. This would not help everyone. But for those who truly have a bond with their furry friends, truly love them, it could help. My friend Ingrid got to have visits from her cat while she was dying of cancer. But this should not be something reserved only for the dying. Despair is a sinister emotion tha can creep up on a person, and someone who could be making gains in physical therapy can’t because they give up. I’m not ruling out professional psychological help and even antidepressants when necessary. But if a visit from a patient’s pet would lift spirits and renew determination to get stronger and go home, then I think it should happen, if at all possible.

        • I think the hospital environment can have a negative impact on patient welfare (mood). I don’t know if she is in a hospital but any environment where one is surrounded by illness and sometimes death (especially on a ward) has to be depressing. A good therapy cat helps to cancel that out.

  2. I don’t know what my life would be without the presence of cats and a bird in the house. “PETS” are definitely therapeutic to us humans as they are “Non-Judgmental” unlike our fellow humans.Your dog, cat, bird or aquarium fish will always except you for what you are and not who you are.As a blogger my pets definitely help my creative mind.As for people terminally ill or hospitalized, its a proven fact that “Pet Therapy” does help in quick recovery amongst patients.

  3. “protect the elderly from getting scratched” – don’t get a cat then. Not everything on this planet should be ‘modified’ for our stupidity, oh, sorry, I meant safety. But since we are kept more and more ‘safe’ we have become more and more stupid and incapable of looking after ourselves. Nowadays if you ride your bike on the sidewalk you have to watch out for moronic children who will just walk right into you since they have never been ‘trained’ for anything out fo the ordinary. I guess they have been trained under the assumption that no bike ever leaves the road. I yelled at some kid’s parents a couple years ago because their kid did exactly that. I told them that they should expect another bike in a place it shouldn’t be one day. I reminded them that people lock their bikes up ON the sidewalk (shock horror, swoon) and that if they are not careful their kid will die young as a complete retard unless they teach him that bikes are dangerous, rather than that the road is dangerous or whatever stupid plan they had for protecting their idiot child.

    I’ve seen the title of the next story and I can tell its going to be an awful story.

    • None of the pet cats owned by residents at the assisted living facility where I work on a regular basis are declawed. I was surprised at that, but I approve. Declawed cats are more likely to bite, so declawing a cat protects no one. Other places where I’ve worked and seen cats living there may or may not declaw them. I even stopped and stroked one of those kitties, but I couldn’t bear to check his paws to find out. I can say at least that not all places declaw cats provided for the residents.

      Marc, where I grew up bicycles are allowed on the sidewalk so long as there are no parking meters. Lake Delton even made extra wide side walks for all the kids who work there in the summer to use them instead of the road to ride and walk to work. I wish they’d had them when I was young.

  4. Animals are wonderful therapists and are a comfort to people who are dying too.
    Our late mother came home from hospital to die in her own bed, we had a cat called Felix at that time, a beautiful ginger boy. He stayed on her bed for 10 whole days and nights, only leaving her long enough to have a bite to eat and a quick walk outside. He gave her great comfort just by being there, no doctor or nurse would have dared to try and move him!
    He stayed with her until she died.

    • What a beautiful story Ruth. The cat is a comfort to people under all kinds of situations. I was feeling down the other day and when in bed I called Charlie over and he came and rested on my legs and kept me company (I just tap on the bed and he comes). He stayed a while and then groomed himself against my legs. My mind relaxed and some of the negative emotion was washed away. Thanks Charles, old boy!

      • Charlie loves you as much as you love him, you are ‘in tune’
        I don’t think I could have got through the many bad times without cats around to comfort me and when Babz lost her John, she had Popsy to share her grief with and they comforted each other. Then she lost her too and Walter gave her comfort and still does.
        Cats are very sensitive and kind and loving beings and I wish everyone would realise that.

  5. I’m Dexter the Therapy Cat’s mom and he is not declawed (none of my 8 cats are). We just make sure to trim his nails every 3-4 weeks. He has never scratched anyone (over 5 years of therapy work). He loves to knead soft things so his nails do come out while he does that but it is not for defense.

    • Well done, Wendy. I always like to hear your kind of story. I guess that therapy cats have the potential to scratch somebody because you don’t always know how good the person is with cats. A therapy cat meets different people. I’m impressed that Dexter has over five years of therapy work. Fantastic to hear that.

  6. My girl (Molly May) has been doing Therapy work for the past 6 1/2 years as a registered Pet Partner. She has been taught to only knead with toe nails in (almost like she is declawed), as a kitten I would gently touch paw and tell her “soft paw” when she would knead. She has been my Mom’s personal therapy cat at the hospital and rehab centers, after both of her hip replacements. Molly May sees her peep’s (aka people) every other week, and actually know’s them by name and where their rooms are located, if they aren’t in the main sitting area. Some of the therapy work you can “teach” the cat, but most of the special moments come from the cat’s own HEART. If they don’t have the “Love or Heart” in them the moments will not be there. She has her own special lap blanket, so she can be up close and personal with everyone. Molly May has had more hugs, kisses given to her then I think some grand kids get from these same people. Molly May works with a tough crowd at her Nursing Home, they are the ones with dementia/Alzheimer’s. But her peeps will remember that Molly May likes the color “pink” and will wear her color on the days that she visits. It is so wonderful to see the mind work again for a brief time that she is visiting with. I feel so bad for families that never get to see the “special” moments of the love one communicating like they did before the illness took away ability. Molly May brings out so many of these special times with her people.

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