- Therapy Cats:
- A therapy cat is defined as a cat trained to help ailing humans in a medically beneficial way to take advantage of the human-animal interaction for purposes of relaxation and healing. A therapy cat provides affection and comfort to people in retirement homes, nursing homes, schools, hospices, and other human service care facilities.
Emotional Support Animals or Comfort Animals are often used as part of a medical treatment plan as therapy animals. These animals provide companionship, relieve loneliness, and sometimes help with depression and certain phobias, but do not perform tasks that assist people with disabilities.
Although dogs have more traditionally been recruited as therapy animals, and horses are the second most favored, cats are being used more and more. Animals help people heal. They reduce loneliness, depression, and anxiety. They can improve our heart health and get us to exercise more. That’s why many hospitals and nursing homes have programs that bring in dogs and cats and other animals for patients to interact with.
Therapy Cats Come in all Sizes and Breeds
The most important characteristic of a therapy cat is its temperament. A good therapy cat must be friendly, patient, confident, gentle, and at ease in all situations. Therapy cats must enjoy human contact and be content to be petted and handled, sometimes clumsily.
Therapy Cats must be very calm and tolerant around other people and dogs, as well as being handled and held frequently by others. They must also adapt easily to medical equipment, wheelchairs and unfamiliar noises.
Cats provide their own brand of unconditional love and comfort. They help us relax and cope with the stresses of life in a special way. When our feline friends run to greet us after a long day away, it affects us physically.
Many studies have shown that having a cat can calm nerves, lower blood pressure, help prevent and treat cardiovascular disease, cancer and chronic pain, strengthen the immune system and even help you live longer.
There have been arguments made that therapy animals can work as well as or better than conventional pharmaceutical medicine for helping people relax, lowering stress levels and blood pressure decreases, causing the heart rate to slow down.
Therapy cats are assets in many situations. One group that benefits greatly from a little cat-love therapy is children. Therapy cats have been used to help kids with developmental disorders like autism be more comfortable with the world around them. Therapy cats are also especially valuable to the elderly or when interacting with Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia patients, by stimulating both memory and forgotten emotions.
Certification for Therapy Cats
The first step in preparing a cat to be a therapy animal is to make sure the feline meets basic requirements.
These can vary by organization, but typically include being comfortable in a harness and up to date with shots. A variety of organizations train and certify pet therapy teams. Pet Partners is one of the most well-known national organizations that facilitates and promotes animal-assisted therapy and offers training and registration for therapy animal teams.
Medication for the Human Soul
People who suffer from depression often find solace in the companionship that their pets provide.
The emotional problems that depression brings about can be tumultuous and trying. A furry friend can be just what the doctor ordered, providing a special kind of support that can be considered a type of medication for the human soul, with positive results and no side effects.
The role of cats in therapeutic processes continues to amaze researchers and medical professionals, as we learn more and more about their impact on human lives and healing.