When you think of therapy animals, you probably think of dogs, but other animals are getting in on the action too! Pet Partners is an international organization dedicated to using therapy animals to improve people's health and well- being, and they register a variety of animals as therapy animals, including dogs, but also cats, horses, rabbits, guinea pigs, rats, birds, miniature pigs, llamas and alpacas! So, dogs are definitely not alone in their work as therapy animals!
If you have a cat, you know how cats are therapeutic - you get home from a long day and a few snuggles and purrs later, you can feel the stress of the day start to dissipate! That's the idea behind cats therapy! MedicalNewsToday.com says that pet therapies are based on people's desire to interact with animals. Using cats as therapy can help people by reducing boredom, providing companionship, improving mood, and increasing activity through play.
MedicalNewsToday also mentions that a variety of age groups and conditions can benefit from pets therapy. They say therapy with animals can help with depression and anxiety as well as be useful for dementia, ADHD and for those on the autism spectrum. They also list physical conditions that can benefit from therapeutic pets, like recovery from a stroke where motor skills are impaired or in helping reduce pain.
PetFinder.com says that this makes cats for therapy a good fit for the elderly. They mention that some nursing homes even have resident cats who wander from room to room visiting people. They even mention that cats can be valuable when interacting with Alzheimers patients, and can help stimulate memories and emotions!
So, how does a cat become a therapy cat? PetPartners.org registers animals for work in therapy and says a therapy animal must be at least a year old, (6 months, for guinea pigs, rats, and rabbits), be up to date on vaccinations - after all, they could be interacting with susceptible groups, and be reliably house trained. Another requirement that is important for cats, is that they have the right temperament. For a cat to be a therapy animal, they must not merely tolerate people, the must welcome interactions with people, even ones that are strangers to them. PetFinder.com says for this reason, retired show cats are often used as therapy animals, but other even tempered kitties could be a good fit as well. Another important requirement is that your cat be responsive to the owner's direction. The owner can help direct the interaction to make sure it is fun and safe for both the person and cat, and does not add stress to either one!
If you have a cat who is outgoing and who you think might be a good therapy cat, check out PetPartners for more information about how you and your cat can get registered! You can share the joy that your cat brings to you with others in your community!
If you are looking for therapy animals to visit your facility, you can also check out PetPartners to request a visit from one of their animal therapy teams. They visit hospitals, schools, nursing homes, even workplaces to spread the benefits of their therapy!