The benefits of having cats are obvious to you if you own one. Petting their soft fur, feeling them jump on your lap and cuddle against you, hearing and feeling them purr like they are powered by motors relaxes and puts you at ease. Even just watching the antics of your cat at play puts a smile on your face. If you don’t have a cat, you enjoy the same benefit whenever you visit a friend who does and the cat showers you with affectionate attention. And now the joy that the company of a cat brings can be experienced even by those who have no cats and who are old, or unwell, or both.
Cat bliss (Photo credit: @Doug88888)
Welcome to the wonders of therapy cats. Yes, the therapy cat is yet another addition to the growing list of service animals which range from seeing-eye dogs to animals that give comfort to those undergoing stressful situations or are recovering from illness or injury.
Therapy cats visit residents of homes for the elderly, recovering patients, and people undergoing trying situations who need to be comforted.
Cats who may want to apply for this job must have the right personality. The friendly, cheerful, relaxed type of cat who looks for attention from people is the right sort. The sort who can take a little rough treatment, pulling, poking, or simply being petted in a way different from what the cat is normally accustomed to. The ideal “catdidate” for the job must also possess a tolerance for unusual sights and sounds that might disturb a less tolerant cat.
The ideal cat must also be in good health, which means that she must have regular checkups and be up-to-date in whatever maintenance shots she may require. This is important for the protection of patients the cat may visit whose immune system is impaired.
Therapy cats must be accustomed to traveling in pet carriers, and depending on the cat’s personality, may have to get used to walking in a harness as well. Unless of course the cat has eccentric tastes and prefers more unorthodox forms of transport. One example of this type of cat is Lucky. While Lucky does walk in a harness attached to a leash, he also possesses a really posh ride, a carriage with a bed on top.
Witnessing the effect these cats have on the people they visit is heartwarming. Flea, on his first outing as a therapy cat, jumped up onto the bed of an elderly lady in an Alzheimer’s facility and cuddled against her. Smiling broadly she petted him, and his front paws started kneading the bed the way cats do when they purr. And purr loudly he did, with the lady’s face brightening even more. The cat’s owner admitted the sight moved her to tears.
On another visit to the facility, Flea and his owner decided to drop in on a patient who was a longtime friend of theirs. When they entered her room, her family was with her. As it turned out, the patient had suffered a stroke the night before and was not expected to survive to the end of the day. Cat and owner backed out. Flea’s owner apologized for the interruption. But the patient’s daughter asked if the cat was the one her mom had been talking to them about. When his owner confirmed this, the daughter wanted Flea to visit her mom. So up Flea went on the bed, snuggling against the patient’s armpit, purring and kneading the bed. Without opening her eyes, the patient turned her head in the direction of Flea, and smiled. Then she took one last deep breath and died.
Flea’s owner commented that cat lovers know how much their cats love them, but it is even better when they can share that love and see how it truly benefits others.
Published in: Pets